Joe the Plumber—a/k/a Samuel J. Wurzelbacher—is now Joe the Congressional Candidate. If an early campaign ad is any indication, he’s set his sights on a very specific target audience.
Wurzelbacher turns to the camera in his shades and earmuffs and declares: “I love America.”
“In 1911, Turkey established gun control,” says Wurzelbacher in the clip, while obliterating different fruits with a rifle from close range. “From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated. In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated.”
At the end of the 40-second video, Wurzelbacher turns to the camera in his shades and earmuffs and declares: “I love America.”
Not surprisingly, many groups are outraged over the ad’s casual conflation of gun control and genocide. The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) demanded Wurzelbacher apologize and discontinue the ad. NJDC President and CEO David Harris said: “It is not acceptable ever to invoke the Holocaust to make a political point. To say it does a disservice to those who perished and the memory of the Holocaust is putting it mildly.”
Others in the political arena are attacking Wurzelbacher’s message for a lack of relevance. As his opponent in the race, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said to MSNBC, most voters are more concerned with bringing jobs to the state, not arming themselves against a future Holocaust:
“I think it’s rather peculiar… He’s talking about years ago, and I’m not quite sure what relevance that has to the jobs today. I think he’s out of step with the vast majority of people across our region and our country.”
As a first-time candidate, Wurzelbacher is going to make some mistakes. And facing Kaptur, who has won 15 terms in a row, is certainly an uphill battle. But by appealing to his base with the basest of tactics—fearmongering—Wurzelbacher is falling into the all-too-common political ploy of trying to win over voters by manipulating an emotional response.
Playing fears can be a winning strategy, certainly. But the conversation Wurzelbacher is trying to start is a dead end. Obama hasn’t done anything to restrict gun rights, and neither have Democrats as whole. In fact, in 2010, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Obama an “F” on every issue it scored, including background checks, gun trafficking, guns in public, and standing up to the gun lobby and leadership. Wurzelbacher’s ad is little more than a red herring, designed to steer the conversation away from the important issues.
For all the misdirection, it wasn’t too long ago when Wurzelbacher was singing a different tune. Back in 2008, when he rose to prominence as John McCain’s “everyman,” it was revealed that Joe the Plumber didn’t have a legal plumbing license. At the time, he bristled over the attention, lambasting the media and opposing politicians for focusing on meaningless issues.
“That bothered me,” he said at the time. “I wished that they had talked more about issues that are important to Americans.”
Was Wurzelbacher out of line with this campaign ad? Let us know in COMMENTS.
Oliver Lee has been covering social justice and other issues for TakePart since 2009. Originally from Baltimore, he lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn. Email Oliver | @oliverung