"Jesse Helms is back! And this time he's black."
Believe it or not, that's not some deranged Daily Kossian message board rant; it's a campaign slogan. And the candidate who embraced it -- Vernon Robinson, the Republican challenger in North Carolina's 13th District, has released a campaign ad so wildly reactionary that it's hard to believe a bona fide congressional candidate could release something like that and not be run out to the political wilderness and whacked.
Anyway, Vern's foray into unreality got me thinking about how political ads have changed over the years, and whether that old saw about their getting nastier is to be believed. And, after some quick and fully unscientific YouTubein', the answer is: yeah, in terms of volume, probably. Still, that doesn't mean things didn't get raw back in the day. The most famous example of an ad that crossed the line is the Daisy Girl spot Lyndon Johnson put on against Barry Goldwater in '64.
It's still shocking.
There's also this very short and oddly affecting ad the Dems dropped on the Ike-Nixon ticket in 1956.
So politics has always been bloodsport. Tell me something I don't know, right? Here's something I didn't: candidates used to put out ads like this one.
One minute of Kennedy staring into a camera talking straight health policy. Do you imagine Bush doing that? Or Hillary for that matter? And do you think anyone would champion it as a return to heightened political discourse or would it be greeted by a million index fingers changing the channel? Not a tough call...
Still, if we're resigning ourselves to a national discussion that doesn't include sticky wickets like, well, policy, we should at least hop into the way back machine and reinstate one practice that time forgot: the campaign jingle. It'd be worth it just to see Vernon Robinson's.