Political ads tend to be about one thing: pushing people’s buttons. Get a voter in the gut, and you’ve got him at the polls.
In tough economic times, a popular way to grab the white working class is by stirring up the us vs. them antagonism that simmers in the shadowy recesses of our lizard brains.
Resentment toward African-Americans has long been a focus of such appeals. Think Sen. Jesse Helms’s famous “white hands” ad from 1990, in which a Caucasian man’s hands are shown crumpling up a job-rejection notice as the narrator decries the quotas ostensibly championed by Helms’s (black) foe. More recently, Latinos have become the hot bogeyman.
One ethnic group largely exempt from such race baiting in recent years has been Asians. Widely regarded in the U.S. as a “model minority”—itself a bit of stereotyping—Asian caricatures have not generally been used to fan popular outrage. Until now.