On Wednesday, Joss Whedon’s Save The Day PAC released my favorite ad of the 2016 campaign season. Titled “Verdict” and available in both English and Spanish, the two-minute long ad depicts a day in the life of a Hispanic family interspersed with television and radio commentary about the pace of voter turnout — low overall but high in some areas. At the end, the news is ready to announce the winner and a little girl asks her dad, “Papi, can we stay?”
It doesn’t mention either candidate or party and is ostensibly simply part of a campaign to encourage people to vote, but anyone with half a brain sees it as a heartstrings-tugging piece of advocacy for Hillary Clinton. It had me in tears.
The ad spoke to me, personally, in a way nothing else I’ve seen this campaign season did for two big reasons.
The first is that it highlights the reality of working-class people of color, who have often been erased from discourse around the economic anxiety of Trump supporters and the multi-millionaire son of a multi-millionaire’s blue color appeal. Here’s an alarm clock set for 4 am, a man opening a store, a maid cleaning a kitchen, a cook making a living in a taco truck, etc. They’re not relaxing with their soy lattes after yoga. There are millions of people like them in the United States, and their votes are crucial to the election.
The other is that even though the past few months of the campaign have not really had a policy focus, the ad is a reminder that there is very much a policy core to Trump’s campaign.
There are millions of people Trump is promising to deport from the United States, and he’s premised those deportations on the idea that certain kinds of immigrants are inherently criminal. Meanwhile, Clinton is promising to let stay in the United States. And those millions have millions more in children, spouses, siblings, cousins, friends, and colleagues who will miss them if they are forcibly removed from the country.
After losing the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party wrote an autopsy report, the key premise of which was that the GOP had to demonstrate a greater level of interest in Latino concerns. Donald Trump’s key premise from the moment he announced his candidacy was just the opposite — it was time to stop being PC and start getting tough; stop sympathizing with the motives of the undocumented and start calling them murderers and rapists; stop worrying about the practical and humanitarian aspects of mass deportation and start promising it; stop worrying about making nice with Mexico and start talking about coercing Mexico into paying for the wall.
Obviously Clinton’s campaign has its reasons for keeping the closing argument focus on other matters. And obviously Trump supporters are not going to appreciate this ad’s framing of the deportation issue. But this really was Trump’s original core differentiator from the GOP field. And since he won the nomination, there hasn’t been much dissent about it from other elected officials in his party.