Actor Sean Astin’s candidate reminds us that fun political ads don’t always translate into votes.

 First off I just want to apologize for not updating this over the past couple of weeks. I have been preoccupied with a myriad of other matters, including my slide show of  the May 7th Pride parade in Northampton, which is almost done.

    Now I know this is a forum, as stated by its name that is dedicated to thoughts and coverage of life and events in the Pioneer Valley. Every so often though, something happens around the nation that by such a definition also affects us and I comment on that.This next post though falls under nether of those definitions, but in terms of celebrity and the bizarre nature of politics (and California politics in general) just had to be commented on.

    Actor Sean Astin’  best known himself for his roles in such movies as ‘the Goonies’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy has recently taken up the mantle of campaign manager. Judging by the scant number of votes garnered by his candidate; entertainment Executive Dan Adler, in the Democratic primary for a special Congressional election in the Golden state’s thirty-sixth district; Astin may want to forgo any future career in politics. Adler, in a field of ten candidates received just 355 votes in Tuesdays election. That’s right, not 355,000, but 355 votes in a sixteen candidate field. Adler’s campaign though caught the attention of the national political press with its celebrity endorsements (which included Duke and Grammy winning singer Macy Gray), and a slew of entertaining if not bizarre ads.  

     Ads included a video of Adler mounted on a donkey encouraging viewers to ‘get off your ass and vote’, an ad with Adler’s young son and another with Astin’s Mom 1960s tv teen star Patty Duke saying that Dan Adler ‘gets shit done’, and a parody of the 1993 classic football film ‘Rudy’ (in which Astin starred).

     Most awkward though is an ad (up at the top of the page) that would find a good home in a sketch comedy show, but does little more than play on Asian stereotypes, as well as highlight that Adler is both Jewish and has an Asian wife.  

    The race now ends with Former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and local businessman and  Republican candidate Craig Huey going into a runoff election on July 12. The election was to replace outgoing Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), who resigned from the House recently to head the Woodrow Wilson Institute.  

MY TAKE:Now one could usually chalk up a loss like that to a crowded field during a special election in May when it is hard to mobilize voters, but with all that press you would think he or any candidate running in one of the two major parties would have a showing that was a bit stronger. Well maybe or maybe not.

  In this day and age, showmanship and outlandish remarks are commonplace in politics. Indeed American politics whether it be at the national, state, county, or municipal level, they increase an important currency for unknown candidates. No not money in this case, name recognition. But whatever a candidate does  to get their name out there, they have to be careful because if its wacky enough or repeated enough, it could in the end become the thing that candidate becomes most associated with.  

     Last year for example. the campaign Californian and Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina during her party’s primary, ran the so-called ‘demon sheep’ ad, which sought to paint her primary opponent as to use an old cliché ‘ a wolf in sheep’s clothing’. The ad made national headlines and was roundly laughed at by political observers, and though the ex-Hewlett Packard CEO and McCain campaign adviser did go on to win her party’s nomination the farcical ad stuck with her throughout the campaign. Mention so often that one would think it was part of her name.

      Nobody is saying one shouldn’t have fun with political campaigns. They can often lighten the often harsh tone and wonkish nature of political campaigns. But in this day and age when controlling the narrative is so crucial, the amusing can often take hold drowning out anything serious a candidate has to say about issues and substantive ideas.  Lesson amusing ads and personalities can gain a candidate name recognition, money; but can only take you so far in terms of getting votes.

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