2000–Michigan Dems Attack Ad on Bush
From COMM 458 student Justin Geiser:
During the Presidential campaign in 2000, President Bush was the target of many mudslinging television commercial ads from both his opponent and the Democratic Party. In a political ad paid for by the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee that aired in the state of Michigan, Bush’s intellectual capacity on the economy was called into question.
Historically, political campaign ads on both radio and television have been used to criticize candidates’ plans for office and viewpoints on certain issues in order to support their own candidates’ political platform. While the campaign ads serve as a way to inform the general public on what each candidate believes, it has also become a way of tarnishing the image of a candidate through mudslinging and vicious personal attacks that can often times prove damaging in close elections. In the 2000 election, the race for Michigan’s 17 electoral votes was tight with Gore barely hanging on to the win by a little more than 51% of the vote over Bush’s 46%.
The year 2000 saw the economy take Americans on a bit of a roller coaster ride with a strong first few months of the year but as the year went on, the economy began to take a bit of a nosedive as interest rates were increased. Unemployment was at its lowest in decades and interest rates were increased multiple times to sort of slow down the soaring economy. President Bush’s economic platform during the election was to cut taxes for all Americans in hopes of giving them more spending money. The problem that the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee had with this was that there was already large federal economic deficit that needed those tax dollars and that citizens were not even willing to spend as long as interest rates were high so his strategy was sort of weak.
Another point of attack in this ad was on Bush’s handling of the long-standing social security crisis. It can be argued that around the time of the 2000 election, the social security crisis was starting to creep into the minds of every American voter. Unlike most problems, social security is a problem that affects people from every age group. People were beginning to forecast that social security would be bankrupt in a decade or two even though historically people have questioned how long it could exist since the day it was created. All voters in some way will be affected by the crisis as they will have to keep in mind that they will have to wait longer to draw from social security as they work from a young professional in their 20’s to retirement age. It can very much affect your immediate lifestyle and whether it will even exist when my generation hits retirement age is a legitimate concern. The ad itself accuses Bush of promising a large chunk of social security (over $1 trillion) to both senior citizens and younger workers at the same time thereby once again questioning his intelligence when it comes to handling economic crises.
In my opinion, the most glaring piece of rhetoric in this entire ad was the way in which the makers decided to stylistically and visually portray Bush and the economic problems facing the future President. In introducing the argument over his handling of social security, the ad showed a serious, almost sinister looking president Bush flanked to his left by an unsettled female senior citizen and by a younger man holding a tool box on his right. This style of presentation was a way to really put faces to the people who will be affected or in some people’s opinion, harmed by the actions Bush plans to take as President. When criticizing the President, the ad also accuses him of providing tax cuts to those who make over $300,000 a year as it shows a person stepping into a limousine with a chauffeur holding the door open giving off the effect that Bush is only taking care of those who are filthy rich. The following scene attempts to prove that Bush’s economic tactics are phony and will never work according to eight formal Nobel Prize winners. The words “deficit” and “interest rates” are also flashed on the screen in all capital letters as to say that these are some sort of enormous problem that no presidents have ever had to deal before. This exaggeration serves as sort of an attention getter leading into the final scene where the ad asks the public, “On the economy… Does George W. Bush know what he is doing.”