Halftime in America? Clint Eastwood Chrysler Ad a Mishmash of Political Points

 Last year, automaker Chrysler made news with a dramatic Super Bowl ad featuring rapper Eminem, celebrating the city of Detroit and the rebirth of the auto industry.

This year, Chrysler's big ad featured Clint Eastwood declaring it "Halftime in America," his familiar, growly voice underneath layers of images of Detroit workers, families, and of course a (black) family with a shiny new car. The ad depicts an uncertain country, still reeling from recession. It makes an explicit reference to the bailout of the automakers--Eastwood says "People in detroit know a little something about this, they almost lost everything...but we all pulled together, and now Motor City is fighting again." 


The monologue at times sounds like an Obama campaign ad, stressing the future, coming together, unity, and of course--"Our second half is about to begin." (In a strange coincidence--maybe--the year Obama was elected, these same two teams played in the Super Bowl, and the Giants won in 2008 as well.)

As Laura Flanders noted, Obama's been campaigning on the strength of his Detroit bailout, while Mitt Romney famously called for letting the automakers go bankrupt. But the bailout was begun under Bush, and as Flanders wrote, came with some serious consequences for those same working people celebrated in Chrysler's ad. 

Perhaps most interesting is that the Chrysler ad actually featured footage from the Wisconsin protests last February over Scott Walker's union-busting budget repair bill. As John Nichols at the Nation wrote:  

At the fifty-second point in the ad, images from last year’s mass pro-union protests in Madison, Wisconsin, were featured.

But something was missing: union signs.


Wisniewski’s original video, from an evening rally at the King Street entrance to the Wisconsin Capitol, features images (at the two-minute, seventeen-second mark) of signs raised by members of Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), the local education union that played a pivotal role in the protests. One sign features the MTI logo, another reads: “Care About Educators Like They Care for Your Child.”

In the Chrysler ad, the MTI logo is missing and the “Care About Educators…” sign is replaced with one featuring an image of an alarm clock. Several other union signs are simply whited out.

Rebuilding Detroit without unions, huh? Also, the words Eastwood is saying as the Wisconsin scene flashes on-screen are "discord and blame"--not exactly a positive view of the protesters. 

Still, Karl Rove hates it, even used that old dogwhistle "Chicago-style politics" in describing it, and even actual Detroiters think it's not terrible. As one blogger put it: 

these commercials stay true to the working class roots of detroit, the fight of detroiters, the ability to love even in the worst of times—they rewrite “dirty decaying filth” to “gritty working class tuff”—i really liked the eminem commercial (in spite of the corporatism) because it respected the response detroiters have to historical segregation of the city by the rest of the US (and even the rest of michigan). it made a place for that feeling that we’ve been doing this all alone now, and that’s something to be proud of that we made it this far.

And Marcy Wheeler noted, "both the invocation of the Chrysler bailout and the use of Eastwood remind that rebounds work best when governments invest. "

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at February 6, 2012, 9:20am

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