Propaganda, Potholes and Pensions: Political Ads & Business Clichés During Election (Hunting) Season

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Click here to read…

It wasn’t supposed to be this close of a race in Michigan. To get Rick Snyder re-elected governor may take more checks from United Citizens like the Koch brothers to create more subtle ads like the following…


This cringe-worthy moment was a response to Mark Schauer’s surprising “too-close-to-call” campaign—perhaps riding on the bumpy road of last winter’s potholes and angry pensioners whose fixed incomes become less-fixed with Snyder’s new tax on their retirement.

And, of course, both sides can be pretty manipulative--although this lefty ad sadly doesn't really stretch the truth.

And, of course, both sides can be pretty manipulative–although this lefty ad sadly doesn’t really stretch the truth.

Even GOP legislators weren’t happy with this tax…

Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, who introduced the repeal bill on March 20, said he did so in response to constituents in his district who have called his office or approached him in coffee shops to complain about the pension tax as they prepare their returns.

“Since it’s tax season, I’ve had a huge amount of calls from my constituents when they find out what their tax liability is,” Jones told MLive last month. “I think it’s extremely unfair when people have planned their life for their retirement and then suddenly, in the midst of their retirement, they get a new tax.” (link to MLive article)

Amway and Dow already made things perfectly clear 20 months ago, when Governor Snyder was forced to back-peddle on his “not on my agenda” stance and vote for the dubiously titled Right to Work law in a lame-duck session of the legislature behind locked doors to keep the public literally out in the cold.

Paid for by Libertarians and Grover Norquist uneasy about using their real names...

Paid for by Libertarians and Grover Norquist uneasy about using their real names…

Were Citizens really United? The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowed the floodgates to be opened for corporations to be seen as people—behind foggy names as seen in Chattanooga’s UAW billboard scare-tactics that just needed to scare off a handful of pro-union votes in a VW plant per the marching orders of the governor and US senator (see Feb. 15th post).

Now, the terribly vague GOP ads have finally begun that praise Snyder as working both-sides of the aisles in a bipartisan love boat cruise—that apparently docked in Fantasyland, just near the Small World ride–all with an eerie crossover of convent choirs and a muppet-like narrator…er, governor.


A friend’s Facebook post criticizing the ridiculous wedding dress tactic (that was cookie-cutter produced to slide in multiple at-risk governors) didn’t argue that the ad was bad—but instead pulled the third-grade come-back that never worked for me when I was busted throwing a pencil at my buddy Pete. “But he started it—and his was a Number 3 pencil!”

“It’s about time that Snyder stopped playing the nice-guy and took on these lies.”

I asked for a list of those lies and am still looking in vain to the upper-right corner of my computer screen–for that elusive little red Facebook flag over my message icon. Perhaps he should have just used the other elementary staple of debate—“Nu’uh!”

The history of political advertising is riddled with great campaign strategies and ridiculous ones.

Not the dynamic speakers that they might appear.

Not the dynamic speakers that they might appear.

The Michigan GOP/Koch/Amway tacticians are following the template they used in the campaign for Warren G. Harding, the most popular president ever at his death (and probably the most likely 20th Century president to be forgotten in a Trivial Pursuit game since his death in office). The “front porch campaign” was simple—don’t let him speak much, don’t let him meet anyone—certainly don’t allow him to debate. Just last Monday, after months of requests, the governor agreed to a benign town hall event next week instead of a formal debate—with the room full of the hard-to-believe “undecided voters” (Free Press article).

In the too-easily adjustable slogan from 1964, Barry Goldwater’s slogan, “In your heart, you know he’s right” had tacked on to it, “Yes.  Far right.”  It suggested that it was time for the country to grow up, that the Kennedy experiment was over and that it was time to accept reality.  As Vietnam was escalating, the nation wasn’t really in the mood for dad to take over the driving wheel.

Barry Goldwater--a screaming liberal if he were alive today.

Barry Goldwater–a screaming liberal if he were alive today.

And one of the most brilliant reversals of a silly PR stunt fell into the lap of George H. Bush as Michael Dukakis took a ride in a tank wearing a Great Gazoo-like helmet–all they had to do was drop in the squeaky-wheel audio and a patriotic dig at his un-American criticism of our strike on Grenada.


Silly ads and poorly planned photo-ops are nothing new.  William Henry Harrison didn’t want to wear an overcoat or hat during his long-winded inauguration speech and died of pneumonia 32 days later, after all.  Whether the illness was the result of his vanity is debatable, but it’s probably not the legacy he envisioned for himself.

Three trite sayings we have all heard clang particularly as Rick Snyder struggles to erase the public’s memory–particularly in regards to his educational record…

Cliché #1: “Caveat Emptor”

Metro Detroiters have been warned not to buy furniture from a garage sale for many years due to the recent sewage flooding—garbage pickers apparently have no scruples, who knew? Local news reporters have filled many time-slots with horror stories of soggy cars dry-cleaned after their rescue from the Lake I-696. The translated Latin pronounces to the gullible “Let the Buyer Beware” and it remains the best “I-told-you-so” for every Brooklyn Bridge mortgage ever held.

Fish-tales by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, with the backing of Rick Snyder, as they reinvent Detroit...and the unions...and the seniors citizen taxes and the...

Fish-tales by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, with the backing of Rick Snyder, as they reinvent Detroit…and the unions…and the seniors citizen taxes and the…

Despite all the findings that charter schools and cyber schools don’t really work and aren’t 20% as accountable as traditional public schools, the facts just get in the way of the message.  After all, both Snyder and President Obama’s Arne Duncan wouldn’t want kids’ futures to interfere with the bottom-line.

None of the governor’s direct interventions into education have worked, including his scandalized Education Achievement Authority–but there’s not much outcry, particularly now that count-day is behind us and the per-pupil public money has already been shipped off to the companies supporting the governor.  Which leads us to…

Cliché #2: “You get what you pay for.”

Four years ago, 52% of the teachers in the state actually voted for Rick Snyder over Lansing Mayor Virg “Who?” Bernero—believing the folksy “Hire Rick!” signs–that this venture-capitalist who guided Gateway out of the US into Asia (under the name Acer) would somehow forgo his old habits and instead help out Michigan and its workers.

After all, busting unions wasn’t on his agenda. And many Gateway executives probably believed they were still going to be selling bovine-boxes into 2020.

A 2011 article, prior to his Right to Work flip-flop, in which the governor admits cuts to education--counter to his ads.

A 2011 article, prior to his Right to Work flip-flop, in which the governor admits cuts to education–counter to his ads.

Two years ago, during the heavy campaign to recall the governor, many petitioners were told, “Sorry, majority rules. If you don’t’ want him in office, get folks to vote for the other guy in November 2014.” They were right. If 52% of teachers voted for the guy to spearhead the dismantling of their 50 years of bargaining rights, then that’s what democracy is all about.

If only the yellow text could show up on all campaign ads...

If only the yellow text could show up on all campaign ads…

Cliché #3: “If it seems too good to be true…”

Somewhere, the GOP found a retired public school teacher to support the governor—and he didn’t have to look any further than the distance from Alaska to Russia–there she was, right next door…


Alas, Linda Thaler is not the thaleswoman she would appear, according to…

The 30-second TV ad by the campaign for incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is getting as much notice for who’s in the ad as its content. In it, retired school teacher Linda Thaler attacks Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor, for education funding cuts while he was in the state Senate. Why the fuss over Thaler? She happens to be Snyder’s next-door neighbor at his Gun Lake vacation home south of Grand Rapids. (link to TruthSquad)

Truth Squad points out “fouls” from both parties, including its review of a Schauer ad that doesn’t cry “foul” on the accuracy that Snyder approved a hefty raise for a staff member, but asks us to put it in the larger picture (and apparently ignore major pay-cuts and privatizations to public schools).

“Yes, he has given large pay raises to his executive staff, including a $330,000 salary, but even if all the funding for the governor’s staff was eliminated, that would be $5.4 million that the state would save when the public education budget for K-12 in Michigan is nearly $12 billion,” said the editor of the Truth Squad, David Zeman. (link)

Sadly, the two-pronged grade-school defense of “Nu’Uh” and “But he did it, too” will probably carry the day come November.  With corporations as citizens, with jean-clad CEOs as governors and with an amnesiac public convinced that their problems stem from the quickly vanishing middle-class, what’s a non-billionaire to do?

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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

One Response to Propaganda, Potholes and Pensions: Political Ads & Business Clichés During Election (Hunting) Season

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