I took a look at McCain’s “The One” commercial and came away with two impressions: it obviously had a lot of symbolism I wasn’t getting and it seemed low budget, kind of Monty Pythonesque. Then, thanks to Kevin Drum I read Amy Sullivan’s analysis of the commercial in Time which put pieces into place for me.
I still wanted another take on what seems like a fascinating new low in campaigning – when was the last time a presidential campaign produced (and put their name on) a commercial implying the other candidate is the anti-Christ? So I contacted Lindy Scott, who I met when he ran as a Democrat for congress in Illinois’ 6th District, for his perspective as a politically involved evangelical Christian who formerly directed Wheaton College’s Center for Applied Christian Ethics. Lindy was kind enough to write the following analysis:
“In his campaign commercial ‘The One,’ John McCain stoops to a new low in his attack on Barack Obama’s Christian faith and character. Using the same style as his ‘Celebrity’ commercial, McCain portrays Obama as arrogant, self-righteous, and messianic. True to his Christian beliefs, Obama knows that every follower of Jesus is supposed to serve all humanity, to love all neighbors, and in that sense, to be a blessing to all people. During his campaign, Obama has not shied away from affirming his own Christian values, especially in the area of practical love and service for all. As a consequence, Obama has attracted more Christians (and followers of other faiths) than Democrats typically achieve. (For example, polls indicate Obama doing 8-15% better among evangelical Christians than Kerry did.) This has become very problematic for McCain’s chances and Republicans in general.
Fighting back, ‘The One’ commercial paints Obama as a messianic figure, even greater than Moses. His religious quotes are taken totally out of their original context and placed in a setting where the insinuation is not very subtle: ‘Obama could be the Anti-Christ.’ Although a small fringe of fundamentalist Christians might believe this absurdity, these people would not have voted for Obama anyway. I believe [while] McCain is attempting to secure and stir up his right-wing, religious base, he runs the serious risk of turning off the very important independent voters in the middle. He is appealing to fear in ways reminiscent of Bush’s ‘mushroom cloud.’
Voters with religious convictions want their beliefs to be treated with respect. Most will see through this shameful commercial for what it is: a distorted abuse of people’s faith for political purposes. Most will recognize that ‘a text without its true context is a pretext.’ A candidate’s commercial, even when it is an attack on one’s opponent, is really an expression of the candidate’s own, core values. In my opinion, McCain’s claim to integrity has significantly slipped.”
Lindy Scott is currently Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He previously taught at Wheaton College for twelve years, where he also directed the Center for Applied Christian Ethics. In
2004 2006, Scott ran as a Democratic congressional candidate for Illinois’ 6th District.