It's still relatively early in the 2016 election season, but so far we've already seen some pretty off-the-wall political messaging from presidential candidates, whether it's Bobby Jindal's awkward announcement video or, well, any snippet from Donald Trump's campaign launch event. And now that the candidates are starting to target their message for television, things should get really interesting. Those of us twisted folks who watch campaigns for the entertainment factor hope that a major candidate will one day run an advertisement that'll live up to the five most ridiculous political ads ever.
Winning votes is no easy task. The successful candidate has to find a way to stand out from the pack, catch voters’ attention, and offer succinct and memorable reasons why they're the best person for the job. The balancing act is so delicate that in every election cycle, you can count on some candidates going a bit too far. In fact, with how quickly and easily web videos can go viral, it’s safe to say that it's only a matter of time before at least one political candidate says something outrageously misleading, offensive, or just downright creepy — which weirdly enough will probably make them enormously popular. (Raise your hand if you were imagining what Trump’s commercials for Latino audiences might look like when you read that last sentence. Yeah, me too.)
But the candidates below have gone beyond the cheap shots and petty name-calling to which we've become accustomed. Here are five of the most outrageous, insane political ads that should remind us that no matter how out of touch some of our presidential candidates might seem, they could always be worse.
"Give Us Your Cash, B*tch"
Yes, you read that right. Before Rep. Janice Hahn won her seat in California's 44th District, she ran for city council in 2010. Hahn showed support for gang intervention initiatives that employed former gang members to help reduce violence. The super PAC Turn Right USA somehow turned that into an ad that is not just nasty, but racist, sexist, and possibly one of the most offensive political ads of all time.
"We Speak English"
When Republican Tim James ran for governor of Alabama in 2010, he launched his message to voters by focusing on controversial immigration issues. But rather than suggesting more police authority or any of the other traditional conservative views, James honed in on the practice of allowing drivers license exams in different languages. "This is Alabama," says James. "We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it." Offensive and, thanks to the extreme close-up of James that dominates the ad, also pretty awkward.
Let It Go Parody
In 2014, former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was facing a tough runoff campaign against then-Sen. Dan Patrick. In what must have seemed like a genius move at the time, Dewhurst ran an attack ad focusing on Patrick's past as a radio talk show host and television broadcaster — and he did it to the tune of Disney's uber-sensation Let It Go, from the movie Frozen. What could go wrong?
“Wake Up Minneapolis”
In 2013, Jeffrey Wagner really wanted to be mayor of Minneapolis. That was a year when Minneapolis voters had 35 mayoral candidates to choose from, so Wagner had to do something to create some buzz. He ran a television ad about the lengths to which he'd go in order to represent the little people of his city — and even vowed not to go to strip clubs anymore. In an interview with a local newspaper, Wagner said the whole thing was a metaphor: "The metaphor is, I'm protecting the Minneapolis lakes from the sharks. I look at the residents as the water, and the sharks are the corrupt others. They're everywhere."
Two-term Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel ran for the Democratic and Libertarian presidential nominations in 2008. To support his run, he aired two enigmatic campaign videos called "Rock" and "Fire." Of the two, "Rock" has to be my favorite. In it, Gravel spends more than a minute just staring into the camera. What's he thinking? Is it some kind of political hypnosis? Gravel attempted to explain the ad in another YouTube video: "[It's] a metaphor of an ordinary citizen who acts in an unusual and extraordinary way." Extraordinary, indeed.
With the 2016 presidential candidates already starting to air ads in early primary states, we're getting into the fun part of the election cycle. Here's hoping we can count on the candidates for some humor — but not too much.