Whoever came up with the idea to have congressional candidate Carl Scioritino and his Dad appear together in a television ad deserves a raise. And our collective thanks.
Why the raise? Well so many television ads for political candidates are poorly made, canned, and uninspiring. And they are largely ineffective. Grassroots activism, get out the vote operations, and old fashioned shoe leather are far more effective at mobilizing voters.
But the Sciortino ad forces you to take another look at this candidate, draws the viewer in with the witty repartee, and nearly compels you to share it with others. It’s not without its own canned one-liners (banks who “don’t pay their fair share” for example) but it lays out the candidate’s politics with deftness and humor. It’s aimed squarely at those who, like Sciortino, view themselves as proud progressives but it has a nice message for people like his father, who find liberals of the Massachusetts variety to be, well, annoying. (The Dad’s expression at the 46 second mark is priceless).
Great ads do not, alone, make a winning campaign. But they certainly help a candidate raise their profile and if the Sciortino folks can pivot from this great exposure with a newly committed grass roots efforts, they’ll be a force in the 5th.
The ad’s mastermind also deserves our collective thanks because much of the appeal of political life is its solidary impact. People join campaigns, staff phone banks, go door to door in horrible weather because they believe in a cause and because we like being around other human beings. Tocqueville noted this in the early 19th century. We Americans are a nation of joiners. And we like to laugh.
One of the gifts of the Jacksonian era in American politics was to inject some fun into our political campaigns. Their innovations included torch light parades, hard cider (and lots of it) and theatrical campaign speeches. Mass media negatively impacted these communal activities and early attempts a campaign humor fell flat.
Sciortino’s ad is funny and endearing. It reminds us of what we hope political exchanges can be like: no flame throwing, no cheap shots, no yelling. One man who has beliefs the other man finds abhorrent. But the political divisions between the two don’t come between their personal relationship. When the Dad sighs “he been like this for 35 years” and they both end by reminding each other and the viewers of their love, they bring the viewer back to another (somewhat mythical) time when people disagreed without the need to resort to personal, ad hominem attacks.
I heard Geraldine Ferraro speak many years ago about many of her constituents in Queens. ”You remember the opening scene from the tv show All in the Family?” she asked. ”That was my district.” She noted that she held many positions–for example on abortion–that her more conservative constituents rejected. They’d come up to her and say things like “Oh, Geraldine . . . “. But they’d vote for her.
Her point was that she came to her positions honestly and worked hard to gain the respect of the people in her district who couldn’t agree with her but liked her.
I was thinking of that exchange while watching the Sciortino ad. It’s hard not to like either man whatever your politics. It’s an absolute gem of political advertising.