George H.W. Bush’s 1988 “Willie Horton” campaign ad is infamous for racializing fears of crime, encouraging stereotypes of African American men as violent and threatening. The ad is widely believed to have destroyed Michael Dukakis’s chances for winning the presidency, presenting him as soft on crime. It’s a classic example of race-baiting in political campaigns — ads that present racial/ethnic minorities as threatening. Jesse Helms took a different approach with his affirmative action ad, which draws on some Whites’ fears that they are losing out on jobs because of affirmative action.
This election cycle, a number of candidates have produced ads that clearly attempt to stoke and benefit from anti-Hispanic immigrant sentiment. Talking Points Memo posted a mailer sent out by the Yuma County, Arizona, Republican Party as part of its campaign against Democratic state Representative Rae Waters. One side shows a stop sign full of bullet holes and makes a link between immigrants and neighborhood crime:
SB 1070 is the controversial Arizona law that allows law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of people they have stopped for other violations if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they might be undocumented or not carrying the appropriate papers.
To drive the message home, the other side of the mailer contains an image of a blond child, looking a little disturbed, and again links opposition to SB 1070 to “drugs and violence”:
Here in Nevada, Senate candidate Sharon Angle is currently running this commercial that calls Harry Reid the best friend of “illegals,” who are “putting Americans’ safety and jobs at risk.”
The commercial ends with this image:
She has a second commercial that plays on the same themes:
In West Virginia, this ad against Nick Rahall, a Christian Lebanese-American, prominently displays the phrase “Arab Americans” (he chaired Arab Americans for Obama) while scary music plays in the background:
If you have other examples of racialized or anti-immigrant imagery in current campaign ads, let us know.
UPDATE: S. Elle let us know about this ad by Senator David Vitter, of Louisiana, which is very similar to the Angle commercials:
And kantmakm provided a link to this billboard outside Grand Junction, Colorado: