I don’t know about you, but I’ve become far too familiar with Heather Wilson’s pristine kitchen, and I’m not even sure it’s real. I have grown equally weary of Martin Heinrich’s need to convince us that he comes home to New Mexico “almost every weekend.”--- We’ve all seen the current US Senate campaign ads, and I, for one, am more fascinated than ever before by the candidates’ presumptuous method of force-feeding us broad and flawed information in the midst of our favorite TV programs. They spend the majority of airtime tattling on each other like schoolchildren, declaring that the opponent is “too extreme” or has “the wrong priorities” for New Mexico. While slandering your competition is a proud American custom, it’d be nice if more of the ads actually elaborated on the issues in question. Aren’t politics supposed to be serious?
Let’s pretend that all we knew about Heinrich and Wilson came from their TV commercials. Although I couldn’t have told you who actually voted to “help bail out Wall Street” (after all, they blame each other), I could definitely tell you that Heather Wilson’s family sticks to a strict budget, and that one of Martin Heinrich’s “Top 5” reasons that he hasn’t “gone ‘Washington’” is because he “sleeps on a camping mat in his office.” These little gems of irrelevant information about the candidates are their ads’ saving grace, but they’re also the main problem. Why mention in-depth and potentially damaging real information when the public seems happy with tidbits about being the first in your family to go to college or holding “boys’ Sundays” with your sons?
Campaign ads are incredible feats of manipulative filmmaking. The fun facts disguise the less obvious methods of influence (by now, most of us can recognize the upbeat music behind well-lit shots of a candidate and the doom-inspiring audio that accompanies dark, unflattering images of her opponent). The ads themselves are often so brief that, when sandwiched between car commercials and insurance advertisements, the manipulation becomes hard to detect or even subliminal.
One example of this insidious tactic is Wilson’s ad, “Knowingly.” In the video, Wilson’s ad team generates the appearance of a computer screen that looks like it’s been lifted right out of 24, with meaningless strings of numbers that appear to be counting down or calculating something. A photograph of Martin Heinrich on the screen makes him look like a terrorist or criminal, and the text beneath his image says: “Martin Heinrich knowingly voted to KILL JOBS.” The enlarged “KILL JOBS” appears on-screen beneath Heinrich’s face twice, just in case you weren’t looking the first time. “Knowingly” also includes one of the Wilson team’s favorite tricks: showing an image of the Capitol building to represent “Washington.” (Now that I see the picture, I know that you’re talking about the Washington where all that government stuff happens! Thanks for clearing that up, guys.)
Heinrich’s team has some odd techniques, too, although they seem more awkward than sinister. (This is probably because Heinrich himself is kind of awkward.) His ad team seems more creative than Wilson’s—they only use an image of the Capitol in one ad. They have had some goofy ideas, like Heinrich’s aforementioned “Top 5” list or his ad about how he has “always enjoyed building things.” I don’t think anything related to politics has ever made me laugh as much as the ad “Took In,” which features Heinrich sitting around a table with a suitably diverse group of regular folk. The voiceover audio appears to be taken from the event, as we actually see him speaking the voiceover script at one point. The smitten supporters furrow their brows thoughtfully and nod way too much. The tale of how Heinrich learned the value of hard work must have been much more fascinating in person.
Heinrich’s ad “Since” is an attack ad in a different spirit to Wilson’s “Knowingly” or the out-there “Damned.” The jokesters in Heinrich’s camp toss us the idea that “a lot has changed” since Heather Wilson was in office in the ’90s. To visually transport us back to the decade, the ad flashes images of rollerblades, a floppy disc and an old brick of a cell phone. (This is another instance when I couldn’t help but laugh.) Maybe the Heinrich technique is even sneakier than subliminal imaging: I’m inclined to vote for a candidate whose ads actually make me smile. It breeds a positive association that is entirely unattached to the political issues.
There are plenty of examples of how the puppet-masters behind the campaign ads pull our strings. We just have to remember not to accept any of the claims at face value in what are essentially commercials advertising people. In the end, accurate and detailed information must be found elsewhere. In the meantime, enjoy photographs of young Heather Wilson in uniform. File away the information that Heinrich’s weekend to-do list features “fixing the swamp cooler.” (Now that’s what I call a New Mexican!) We can only hope that more campaign advertisements are on their way. God bless America.
The Big Three
A breakdown of the three issues dominating the Heinrich/Wilson campaign ads
1. Wall Street
Bailing out Wall Street, which Wilson and Heinrich toss back and forth in their ads, references 2008’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. The government provided billions of dollars to help keep certain large financial institutions afloat (such as AIG, as mentioned in Wilson’s ad “Price”). Many of those businesses then put some of the money toward large bonuses.
Heather Wilson, who served as a congresswoman at the time, voted for the “bailout.”
Martin Heinrich was not yet in Congress, so he couldn’t vote on TARP. He claims he would have opposed it. A year later, when he became a congressman, he voted in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the “stimulus”—which, in addition to its main purpose of stimulating the economy and promoting job growth, restricted the use of federal money for future bonuses. It did not ban the original TARP bonuses, however, and this may be the basis for Wilson’s claims that Heinrich “voted for the bill that let [the bonus scandal] happen.”
1. Heinrich voted for a “job-killing” medical device tax, then later voted against repealing it.
2. Heinrich is to blame for the current changes taking place at Kirtland Air Force Base, which are also thought to put jobs at risk.
3. Heinrich’s support of the Budget Control Act—the “sequester”—will lead to a loss of 20,000 jobs in New Mexico from locations such as Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Kirtland Air Force Base. The act proposes cuts starting next year, split evenly between defense and non-defense spending.
How they stack up:
1. Heinrich’s support of the Affordable Care Act is partially responsible for the accusations against him. Starting next year, an aspect of the act will impose a tax on the manufacture and import of medical devices. These manufacturers exist in New Mexico, and may struggle to keep all existing jobs. However, the medical device tax had been reduced by half of the originally proposed amount before Heinrich voted for the act.
2. Heinrich seems to be on the receiving end of the blame for the Kirtland Air Force Base changes simply due to the fact that he is currently in office. The mission of the base has changed since F-16 fighter planes were moved to other bases outside New Mexico, but no jobs have been lost due to the changes so far.
3. Heinrich voted for a decrease in government spending, which could mean less funding for federal-government jobs at places like LANL. But limiting government spending is a cornerstone of Wilson’s campaign (see below), so it’s hard to understand why she would condemn Heinrich for it.
4. Heinrich’s opponents often accuse him of “extreme” environmental views. However, the jobs created by the Keystone pipeline project would be temporary construction jobs, and the US State Department has lowered its job prediction from 20,000 to 6,000 (other estimates are even lower). Only a small percentage of jobs would go to New Mexicans, as the pipeline would travel from the Gulf Coast of Texas to Alberta, Canada. Nor would the pipeline guarantee lower energy costs, since private oil companies have no obligation to pass on savings to domestic consumers.
shipped US jobs overseas.
How they stack up:
voted in favor of several laws that preserved tax breaks for companies with
subsidiaries in countries such as China and India, among others. More
precisely, a loophole allows the companies to defer payment of taxes on their
overseas subsidiaries until said profits are returned to the US. Wilson also
voted against banning federal contracts with companies that have overseas
3. Social Security/Medicare
Heinrich’s ads frequently assert that Wilson will cut funding for Social Security and Medicare, in reference to her signing of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” pledge.
Wilson’s intentions when it comes to Social Security and Medicare are extremely vague. She declares she will protect Social Security in her ad “Signed.” (The title refers to when she signed her Social Security card.) However, her views on government spending are clear: she believes that it is out of control. Cut, Cap, and Balance would impose severe annual spending caps. The idea is to cut spending across the board, but this would be damaging to important government functions. Long-term maintenance of the proposed budget could not be achieved without deeply cutting into Social Security and Medicare, Democrats say.
Wilson in turn says that Heinrich cut more than $500 billion from Medicare, due to his vote for the Affordable Care Act.
Heinrich did vote for health care reform. The hundreds of billions of dollars that it is claimed to have cut from Medicare is actually a projected estimate over the next 10 years of money that will be saved due to a reevaluation of health care spending. Most of this money would result from reduced spending toward private insurers and hospitals, not Medicare beneficiaries. However, the Heinrich-backed Budget Control Act will perform cuts across the board, Medicare included. It wouldn’t hit Medicare as hard as the predicted outcome of Cut, Cap, and Balance.