In my most recent column, I cited Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who’s running against former SNL satirist Al Franken, as one of the prime examples of Campaign 2008′s campaign tactic: humorlessness as a political strategy. Coleman and his surrogates have steadily been using Franken’s history of edgy/offensive jokes (including one positing Andy Rooney as a rapist) as a club against him. One line I cut for space reasons was: “It’s the height of irony–or would be, if irony were not now apparently forbidden–that an anti-choice Republican man is now doing his best to embody the old joke about how many feminists it takes to screw in a light bulb. (Punchline: That’s not funny!)”
Coleman has taken the attack to the next level, using it for the first time in a TV ad, above. (Via The Hill.)
As a native Midwesterner, and the son of an accomplished bowler, I take deep offense at the caricature of keglers that Coleman’s ad so shamelessly exploits: portraying them as overweight, tacky dressers given to exaggerated, goofy facial expressions. Also, the very use of bowling as a setting is plainly a dog whistle meant to evoke Barack Obama’s ill-fated attempt at bowling, a reference that is clearly racist, in some way I haven’t quite worked out yet.
My outrage at Coleman’s bigoted attempt at campaign “humor” has nothing to do with my disagreements with his political beliefs. It’s entirely a matter of principle. I would say the same thing about a candidate who agreed with me, in the unlikely event that one of them ever happened to say something offensive. And I’m sure the same is true for Norm Coleman, whom I’m certain will vocally condemn these jokes any day now too.