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CityWatch: The best and worst SC political ads of 2020

  • Updated
Adair Ford Boroughs

Adair Ford Boroughs

Before Highways or Dieways and Let ‘em work, Let ‘em live and hundreds of other ad campaigns my firm has been fortunate enough to do for great clients over the years, we first made political spots.

But I stopped doing political campaigns some 15 years ago, when things started getting so partisan that you couldn’t just work for individuals you liked and respected in either party.

Instead, you had to pick a side, period. No working for Democrats if you did so for Republicans, and vice versa. Individual candidates didn’t matter, only the R or D after their name.

Fittingly, the first candidate my firm did work for was a Republican, John Courson, in 1984, while the last was a Democrat, Joel Lourie, in 2004. Both were making their first runs for the state Senate, and both won.

We did continue to be involved in referendum elections, both statewide and local, but no more political candidates. The concept of bipartisanship was dying, and I was too independent to sign on with either side.

But I always maintained my interest in political ads. I like to watch and analyze them, and am happy to offer my views on the best and worst South Carolina political ads of 2020 (at least so far).

The best is from Adair Boroughs, Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District. And it’s the best by a long shot.

Boroughs is joined in the spot by her father, and if you’ve seen it you know he brings both a camera presence and a ringing endorsement of his daughter that is far from the usual content of a candidate biography ad.

And if you haven’t seen it you should look for it online, both for the political pitch it makes as well as the entertainment value it offers.

It simply works on every level. Boroughs herself is good on camera, and obviously proud of her blue collar background growing up in a doublewide in rural Williston. While she went on to be a Stanford Law School graduate and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney, she is also entirely believable as your neighbor.

And her dad is certainly believable as a dad, one proud of his daughter and not reluctant to say so in his own colorful way. Make that very colorful, in a spot that is very well done.

As for the worst political ad of 2020, it is an attack on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham that is beyond the pale, even by today’s political standards.

Which is to say, no standards. There just aren’t any now, and this ad proves it. While distortion, deceit and hypocrisy are now common in political ads (by both parties and their candidates), this ad takes democracy to a new low in the United States.

In it, Graham is equated to a parasite — not figuratively, literally. Viewers actually get to watch maggots and other parasites eating the flesh of dead animals, while a narrator tells us about Graham’s attributes as a parasite.

That includes feeding off his animal host (President Trump), as he fed off his prior host (Sen. John McCain) until his death. Yes, it says that.

Thankfully, this ad is not from Graham’s opponent, Jaime Harrison. Indeed, I think Harrison could help himself by denouncing it, showing personal class rather than the collective crass of those who are behind the ad.

The responsible party is The Lincoln Project, a group of establishment Republicans who are so over the top in their hatred of Trump that they would make an ad that shows maggots eating animal flesh and equate that to a U.S. Senator who supports the president.

It is just sick, and would be so when applied to any senator and any president. Further, what do the people who funded, produced and aired that ad suggest telling children who see it?

While the irony is no doubt lost on those in The Lincoln Project, I think the rest of us can see it clearly: The group’s use of the name and image of Abraham Lincoln at the close of an ad like that both insults the 16th president and reveals them for exactly who they are.

Which is no Abe Lincoln.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.