Well, this was weird

I had been reading about an ad put out by the DeSantis campaign that has political observers scratching their heads in mystification. I took a look at it and it was decidedly strange. It starts with what looks like an attack on serial sex abuser Trump for saying things in the past that are supportive of LGBTQ+ rights and then veers off into some high volume, frenetic, macho imagery, and drum-like sound, interspersed with images of bodybuilders striking poses and gladiators in helmets, all the while making the point that there is no one who hates transgender people more than him and taking pride in criticisms of him for his harsh actions against them.

It is bonkers. It is so over-the-top that it could easily be mistaken for an anti-DeSantis parody ad.

I am not the target demographic for this ad so the fact that it did not appeal to me does not mean much. But I am puzzled as to which groups might find it appealing, other than virulent transphobes. This was not put out by the official DeSantis campaign but by a group supporting him and there is no sign that the campaign has tried to disassociate themselves from the ad. It is a clear sign that DeSantis thinks that his path to the nomination is to run on an even angrier, harder-line right-wing stance on hot button social issues than all the other Republicans in the field.


  1. moonslicer says

    Yeah, very weird. Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has become so extreme that they hardly know what to say any more. They’re at the point where they have to fight it out with each other to see who can be the most extreme/insane.

    I keep telling myself that this can’t go on. All they’re accomplishing is alienating the more level-headed people among us. But you should never underestimate the power of evil.

  2. says

    @1 “I keep telling myself that this can’t go on.”

    Well, not infinitely, but we haven’t reached the bottom. How low can they go? Just dig up some old speeches from Hitler and replace “Jew” with “LGBTQ” (hey, they even rhyme!). What will be their version of Kristallnacht for LGBTQ? (That is, if we let them get that far).

    I would like to think that they are turning off more and more people “in the middle”, but how many of “the middle” are just “don’t care/doesn’t affect me”? I don’t know. You would think there would be more outrage. Maybe there is, but it doesn’t get reported…

  3. sonofrojblake says

    There are a couple of times in that video where you see Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman. Is this character someone these wingnuts admire and want to emulate? Or did they just wildly misunderstand that book/movie? (Betting on the latter…)

    It really does come across as parody. Quite apart from anything else, how homoerotic was it?

  4. Oggie: Mathom says

    It is a clear sign that DeSantis thinks that his path to the nomination is to run on an even angrier, harder-line right-wing stance on hot button social issues than all the other Republicans in the field.

    Which will spell disaster for the GOP if he gets the nomination (BIG SMILE). Trump appeals to the worst of the authoritarians through his actions, as does DeSantis. BUT, and it is a big but, Trump has charisma (as did Hitler and Mussolini). People, for whatever reason, like him. DeSantis has what can best be described as charisntma. If he is the nominee, the hardcore Trumpistas will vote for a third party neonazi (if one is running) or stay home. The somewhat reasonable wing of the GOP will vote for DeSantis, but that is a small group. Very small. The mythical centrists will vote for anyone but DeSantis — Trump could still get some of the votes, but not DeSantis.

    No idea how this would affect down-ballot races.

  5. John Morales says

    Oggie, the Republican nomination is first past the post, no?

    The more candidates, the more the vote will split.

    Plenty of candidates, now.

    It follows that given Trump’s established die-hard base, it is exceedingly likely he will indeed gain that nomination.

    (Even from this distance, it’s pretty obvious)

  6. Holms says

    Very strange ad! It seems more like the sort of thing twitter junkies and 4chan edgelords would produce.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    @6: “the Republican nomination is first past the post, no?”

    No. Shut up and fuck off.

  8. John Morales says


    No. Shut up and fuck off.

    (checks to make sure)
    Ah yes, @6 is me
    (excellent! A reason to respond to a comment specifically directed to me)

    So you imagine the nomination is no longer decided upon which candidate gets the most votes regardless of whether that candidate gets less than a majority of votes.

    (What’s changed since 2016 that leads you to this conclusion?)

  9. says

    I am not the target demographic for this ad so the fact that it did not appeal to me does not mean much. But I am puzzled as to which groups might find it appealing, other than virulent transphobes.

    It may be aimed at the generation of gamers that are oriented toward a very specific form of marketing since GTA5.

    I am not willing to look at it. It’s toxic memology.

  10. flex says

    So, can I pass up the chance to be pedantic in an discussion with John Morales? I think not!

    John, and others who are reading, the nomination of candidates by political parties has a long and interesting past. There is no requirement that any political party select a candidate through a first-past-the-post primary vote process. In fact, throughout most of the history of the republic, political parties selected their candidates through a convention process where delegates from different regions met and hashed out who the party would nominate. Ostensibly each delegate could choose anyone, but practically a delegation was generally a block of supporters of a single candidate. Generally county conventions selected their nominees for local offices, and the delegates to the state-wide convention. Then the state-wide party convention would select their nominees for state-wide offices, and the delegates for the national conventions. Finally, the national conventions would select the candidates for national office. People who were not members of the party could not participate. If, at the national convention, there was a disagreement about who should be selected the party bosses would negotiate. Some candidates would be asked to step out of the race, additional votes would be held, conferences in smoke-filled rooms would occur, and eventually a candidate would be selected. See Menken’s discussion of how Calvin Coolidge got nominated for Vice President for a glimpse of that world.

    The modern primary election process grew out of a social movement where political parties came to be seen as insular, corrupt, institutions created by rich, white, men to retain power. They were, and you can argue that they still are. They are better now than they were in the past, however little that says about them.

    So the political parties compromised and indicated that as a measure of the faith in the intelligence of the American people, they would make the process more transparent by creating the primary system (a few lawsuits helped convince them of this need too). The primary system used the tools of the general elections (which were, and still are, publicly available for review), as an attempt to re-establish trust that the will of the people rather than the will of the bosses was part of the selection process for candidates. Ballots are secret, which was not a requirement in the convention system, and the votes are tabulated by someone who (ostensibly) is neutral. But much like the electoral college, a vote in a primary election isn’t really for the candidate on the ballot, it’s to select a slate of people to go to the national convention. Further, while there are laws in many states prohibiting voters in the electoral college from changing their vote, I don’t think there are laws prohibiting the people selected by a primary election from changing their vote when they get to the national convention.

    But, to be clear, the parties did not give up their abilities to use other methods to select candidates. While the national conventions for the parties do use delegates to cast votes, the rules for selecting delegates are set by the party elites and can change between conventions. Remember the stink around the Democratic party for creating “super-delegates”? These were people who could vote for nominees but were not selected by primary elections or state-wide conventions. Further, the party leaders, from any of the political parties, can choose to change the nominating process to basically select any candidate they desire. It would have been entirely within the legal authority of the Republican party to choose Jeb Bush in 2016 rather than Trump, regardless of the results of the primary elections. Sure, there would have been lawsuits, and a major fracturing of the Republican party, but it would have been within the power of the leaders of the Republican party to make that decision.

    The reason this is allowed is because political parties are not, technically, part of the government, they are not public institutions. They are private entities; like a business, a church, or a social club. And like a business, church, or other social club, they are allowed to set their own internal operating rules (so long as those rules do not violate established law).

    For parties, the primary process is a double-edged sword. The process is supposed to generate more trust in the parties, greater enthusiasm for the candidate, and give the citizens some level of choice in who they believe would provide good leadership. The downside is that a unqualified, but popular, candidate can win the primaries. When that happens, and it’s happened more than once because the most qualified politicians are generally not all that charismatic, the party is stuck with a terrible choice. Continue with the unqualified candidate, and hope that if they get elected their incompetence can be contained, or select a competent candidate and probably lose the election. I’ve yet to see a party make the choice to push a popular candidate aside in favor of a competent one. Even though it is within their power to do so.

    This background is why the nominating process differs so much across the states. Some states require open primaries, i.e. all citizens get to ‘choose’ their party when the go to the ballot box, and as long as they cast their ballot for only a single party their ballot is counted. Other states have closed primaries, where you are registered to a party and get only that party’s primary ballot (people who are not members of a party technically cannot vote). Other states still have nominating conventions where party members gather and select their nominee.

    So the short answer to the question is,

    No, the primary process is not really a first-past-the-post election, for any party. In practice, the parties have treated the primary process that way, but that’s not really how the primary process works.

    The general election is a different kettle of fish, with it’s own rules, laws, and historical precedents.

  11. flex says

    Oh, and as for the OP…

    My guess is that we have just see the very first political ad generated entirely by SnapGPT, or some other AI.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    @15: if you enjoyed it, well, OK then, but doesn’t the pleasure of pedantry lie in (a) feeling superior to your target and (b) the effect on them of realising you’re right? In this instance if you don’t already feel superior you’ve not been paying attention, and as for (b) you might as well have shown a card trick to a dachshund.

    The concept it might have been generated by an AI is provocative. Even this time last year the concept would have seemed ludicrous, but this time last year I’d never heard of Midjourney or ChatGPT or large language models. I’m now wondering if there’s a conceptual structure for building a generative AI whose area of operation is not still images or language but editing video clips together. I suspect it’s not something that’s amenable to the brute-force approach used in existing generative AI because any remotely usable result absolutely requires a deep, practically subconscious understanding of nuance and context, which is the exact opposite of what these things do. EditGPT would be “physically” capable of taking ten hours of footage and editing it down to a tight twenty minutes… but it would need so much contextual understanding of what was actually going on in that footage for it to make any sense, I suspect that’s a long way off. Even that abomination in the original post was done by someone with an understanding of a rather specific form of masculinity, although apparently no sensitivity to how homoerotic it comes across. Interesting thought experiment though. I’d suggest that by the time we have an AI that can generate an ad like that, we’ll be a LOT closer to the mirage of “artificial general intelligence”.

  13. John Morales says

    Thanks, flex. Filled in the odd gap, there.

    No, the primary process is not really a first-past-the-post election, for any party. In practice, the parties have treated the primary process that way, but that’s not really how the primary process works.

    So, de facto, not de jure.

  14. Deepak Shetty says

    One of the few things to look forward to in the Republican primary is Trump insulting the heck out of DeSantis and what DeSantis’ reaction predictably will be.

  15. sonofrojblake says

    I think the difference this time round will be that in 2015, evidently none of the shower of Republican candidates knew how to respond to Trump, because they very clearly didn’t see him coming and were too slow and dense to formulate a response that was noticeably distinguishable from someone standing there just going “You… you can’t say THAT!”

    DeSantis comes into the race knowing exactly what Trump is like, and with the apparent intention to say THAT, and a lot else besides. It won’t do him any good, but it will at least make him slightly less pitiable than Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the rest of the worthless wastes of oxygen who ran last time. (Seriously, I actually felt sorry for Jeb Bush. Massively rich entitled arsehole that he undoubtedly is, I pitied him. That’s some achievement by Trump, I think. I imagine he still wakes up sweating and remembering saying “Please clap.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUXvrWeQU0g)

  16. Dr Sarah says

    ‘I am puzzled as to which groups might find it appealing, other than virulent transphobes.’

    I don’t think there is an ‘other than virulent transphobes’ group in the target audience.

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