There have been plenty of awesomely bad political commercials already this year, from the Obamacare dermatologist-executioner to the English-only driver’s test guy to the evolution-hatin’ gubernatorial slugfest to this heavily armed simulacrum of Sam Shepard on methamphetamines. But, barring the rollout of a Sarah Palin-themed TV station, I believe we can declare winners for the funniest, saddest, and scariest political spot on television. And they’re all the same commercial.
That is dark-horse Tea Party candidate and Islam antagonist Rick Barber, running for Congress in Alabama’s 2nd District, having a conversation around a bar table with a deringer pistol and couple of guys gussied up like the founding fathers Sam Adams, George Washington, and Ben Franklin. Barber starts in by saying: “…And I would impeach him. And if that’s not enough, some of you men owned taverns. Sam, you were a brewer; Mr. President, a distiller. You know how tough it is to run a small business without a tyrannical government on your back…(30 seconds of anti-IRS chat)…You men revolted over a tea tax. A TEA TAX. NOW look at us!”
In defter, subtler, more intellectually rigorous hands, this had the potential to be a powerful message. But whatever strength the founding fathers have as metaphor is blunted—rendered part silly, part scary by their literal portrayal and by the bang-you-over-thead conspiracy-style shouting of the candidate himself. It kind of encapsulates everything that’s unsettling about the anti-government movement at current, a self-contradicting play-fantasy of militarization, solidarity, and vengeance against an ultimate dark evil.
Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel has already pointed out that George Washington as president was quite the counter-revolutionary, not exactly the rapscallion Barber hoped for:
President Washington presided over, and approved, the first tax levied by the federal government—the 1791 whiskey tax. When the tax met resistance, he approved the assembling of militias to enforce the law and mobilization of agents to collect the revenue. So the Barber daydream of Washington angrily ordering a “gathering of armies” to oppose a tax is…well, entertaining, I guess.