Home > 1968-2008 Campaigns, 1988 Campaign > 1988–Revolving Door Ad–Jared Owens

1988–Revolving Door Ad–Jared Owens

During his campaign for the Presidency in the 1988 election, Dukakis’s support for prison furloughs was arguably his most controversial subject.  The original state inmate furlough program did not allow first-degree murderers to have weekend passes, like other prisoners. Republican Governor Francis W. Sargent signed this into law in 1972.

However, “In 1976, the state legislature passed a bill that would have ended the furloughs of first-degree murderers. Governor Dukakis, as the Edsalls point out, vetoed it. A strong advocate of prisoners’ rights, he contended that the bill would ‘cut the heart out of efforts at inmate rehabilitation (Wiki).'” During his second term, his veto allowed Willie Horton to be furloughed – one of the first-degree murderers who was allowed out. During his furlough, Willie Horton broke into a house, raped a woman and assaulted her husband in Maryland. Obviously, this caused a huge problem for Dukakis, and the Bush campaign jumped on it.

“A conservative political action committee affiliated with the Bush campaign, the National Security Political Action Committee, aired an ad entitled “Weekend Passes”, which used a mug shot image of Horton. The Bush campaign refused to repudiate it. That ad campaign was followed by a separate Bush campaign ad, “Revolving Door”, also criticizing Dukakis over the furlough program.”

The Revolving Door Ad is a negative ad attacking Dukakis, and it is considered to be one of the prime factors in his defeat in the Presidential election race. It first aired on October 5, 1988, and was created by Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater. Revolving Door Syndrome is a criminology term for recidivism, which means that someone will continue to repeat an undesirable and/or illegal act even after being reprimanded and having had experienced negative consequences for said acts. The Revolving Door ad, coupled with the Willie Horton ad, had a very serious impact on the public and did irreversible damage to the Dukakis campaign. The fact that a kidnap, assault and rape happened not only on Dukakis’s watch, but because Dukakis vetoed legislation to prevent this from happening, really worked against his public image and policy ideals.

The Revolving Door ad was voted to have had the most impact on voters during the election campaign, as the results taken from a CBS/New York Times poll show. Bush’s “Revolving Door” ad was linked to mentions of crime and law and order as the most important problems facing the United States. Among those who had not seen the ad only 5 percent cited these problems, whereas 12 percent of those who had seen the ad named this area. This fits with longitudinal evidence cited by Marjorie Hershey, who found that “the proportion of respondents saying that George Bush was ‘tough enough’ on crime and criminals rose from 23 percent in July to a full 61 percent in late October, while the proportion saying Dukakis was not tough enough rose from 36 to 49 percent.” Willie Horton’s furlough, and eventual rape attack also caused women to take a much higher stance on crime as a priority in America (InsidePolitics).







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