Super Bowl commercials usually get talked about just as much as the actual game does. Most are funny, and a few make viewers think, but this year one politician’s racist commercial made viewers wonder if they heard correctly.
Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, currently campaigning against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate, ran a commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday that was filled with racial stereotypes of Asian culture. The advertisement implied that Debbie “Spend-it-Now” spends too much American money, forcing the government to borrow from Asian countries and in turn make their economies stronger. The commercial was presented to viewers by an Asian woman with a noticeably fake accent.
Although the point he was trying to make might be correct, Hoekstra went about getting his message heard in a completely unacceptable way.
The commercial was extremely racist, there is no disputing that. Hoekstra is continuing to stand by the advertisement with no hint of being apologetic, but it’s important to keep in mind he might have been going for the “shock” factor to Michigan voters.
There’s a concept where there’s no such thing as bad press, and his advertisement is being talked about on a national scale. According to Bruce Vanden Bergh, an MSU professor who researches Super Bowl and campaign advertisements, Hoekstra is gaining exposure from the ad, which might be an advantage to him.
But even if his name is out there, his racist commercial exemplifies poor judgement from him and his campaign managers — a characteristic not suitable for a senator. It is likely that when voters step into the voting booth, they will remember him as the racist politician from the Super Bowl commercial rather than the politician who wants to cut back on government spending.
With an ad so blatantly racist, one can’t help but wonder what he possibly could have been thinking when he approved that message. It is possible he was attempting to play to people’s fears, or maybe he was trying to aim at a certain subset of people who agree with his underlying point about government spending.
There are people out there who wholeheartedly believe the country should stop borrowing money from foreign countries, and some of those people likely are willing to look past the racist remarks and vote for him solely because of his message.
Either way, the decisions he made probably will result in more people voting against him than for him. Right now, Hoekstra is known for his offensive comments, not his political beliefs.
A politician should not be encouraging racism, especially during an event as uniquely American as the Super Bowl. Hoekstra demonstrated a lack of judgement, from the off-color remarks to the childish name-calling of a current senator.
Ultimately, his commercial will stick in people’s minds as a wasted opportunity, a race-baiting advertisement rather than a platform from which he chose to promote his message and views.