Our Opinion: Negative ads in 19th a taste of what’s coming
The political ads for the Elizabeth Warren-Geoff Diehl U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts are going to be nasty, but Berkshire viewers don’t have to wait that long to get a taste of the kind of attack ads that will clog the screen in October. The Congressional Leadership Fund has been financing TV attack ads upon Democratic congressional candidate Antonio Delgado in the district west of the Berkshire border since August and they get a little uglier with each fine-tuning.
The CLF, a superPAC that supports Republican candidates, focuses not on the many issues facing the district but on the brief career of Mr. Delgado, who is African-American, as a rapper, as well as his choice to take a job in New York City. Blurry, ominous images are accompanied by a few snippets of Mr. Delgado’s rap music and the voice-over chastises him for, among other things, disrespectfully referring to “dead presidents” — which is a slang term for money. Rap is a form of artistic expression, often used as social protest by African-American performers. Taking lyrics literally and out of context is as foolish and irresponsible as would be concluding from the lyrics of “West Side Story” that the classic’s iconic creators were prejudiced against Puerto Ricans.
In an earlier incarnation of the ad, the CLF quotes the young rapper declaring “God Bless Iraq” while an image of the Twin Towers, which were brought down 17 years ago today, is seen in the background. This plays off the myth that Iraq had something to do with the downing of the World Trade Center by al-Qaeda, which the Bush-Cheney administration used to con Americans into backing its Iraq disaster. But let’s look at the lyrics in context: “We must fight with love and goodness in our hearts and peace in our minds if democracy, equality and freedom are truly to prevail. God bless America, God bless Iraq, God bless us all.” Hard to dispute those sentiments.
The ad also attacks Mr. Delgado for his New York “values,” apparently in reference to his time working in a Manhattan law firm. Mr. Delgado was born in Schenectady, N.Y., the son of parents who both worked for General Electric — a scenario that was not uncommon in Pittsfield. A Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Harvard Law School, his career took him to New York City, which is not uncommon for distinguished law school grads.
The CLF obviously hopes that rural 19th District voters will react unfavorably to Mr. Delgado’s links to that Sodom to the south — which is also an economic generator for New York State. The many Berkshire residents with strong links to New York City through work or family must wonder what the Republican SuperPAC finds so terrible about their values. (That the Berkshires is afflicted by these negative ads is a result of the FCC’s designation of the county as a part of the Albany market, a preposterous situation well-chronicled in these pages.)
Mr. Delgado has asked Representative Faso to disavow these shameful ads, which he has declined to do, noting that the CLF is not linked to his campaign. This distinction without a difference allows PACs to demonize a candidate’s opponent while both parties self-righteously claim that there is no connection. Albany’s TV stations could decline to run ads that are this misleading and race-baiting but they will look the other way and fill their coffers with ad money as they do every two years.
Will the ads (and their radio versions) be successful? Sadly, negative ads work, and lies and slander proved to be particularly successful tactics in 2016. Mr. Faso, who supported tax cuts for the wealthy and voted to end the Affordable Care Act in a district that is struggling economically, evidently doesn’t believe he can win on the issues, and neither does the CLF. We’ll see in November if voters let them get away with their cynical strategy.