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Racist rancher Cliven Bundy stars in the weirdest campaign ad of the year
We knew Nevada was weird, but this is next-level.
Pop quiz, hotshot: what’s the strangest campaign ad you’ve ever seen?
Was it former HP CEO and failed California senatorial candidate Carly Fiornia’s infamous demon sheep ad? Or was it when Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel wordlessly threw a rock into a lake and then slowly walked into the background for nearly three minutes?
Whatever your favorite weird campaign ad, there’s no way it was as bizarre as the one released last week by third-party Nevada congressional candidate Kamau Bakari in his quest to unseat incumbent Democrat Dina Titus.
The core of the ad’s weirdness comes from the presence of libertarian icon Cliven Bundy, who briefly became a right-wing star when the federal government attempted take his cattle after the animals had been illegally grazing on Bureau of Land Management property for decades. Bundy refused to comply with government officials, opting instead to gather a posse and engaged the feds in an armed standoff. This act of defiance turned Bundy into a conservative hero—a status that lasted until New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney started following Bundy around.
Like any good reporter, Nagourney’s ears perked up when Bundy began a sentence with the phrase “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” and then went on to speculate that maybe African Americans would be better off they were still picking cotton as slaves. (Really.)
Instantly, national politicians who had been holding up Bundy as the shining example of heroic resistance to government overreach ran the other way as fast as they could. With that, it seemed, Bundy’s fifteen minutes of political fame were over.
Alas, it was not to be. Bakari, the congressional candidate, who is African American, enlisted Bundy to be his campaign spokesman in a new ad that sees Bundy telling you, the voters of Nevada, more things about the negro:
Here is a list of absolutely insane things in this ad:
- Both Bundy and Bakari are dressed like cowboys.
- Bundy’s cowboy outfit is white and Bakari’s cowboy outfit is black.
- Bakari insists “billionaire ball team owners” like former L.A. Clippers chief Donald Sterling shouldn’t apologize for talking about how they don’t want their girlfriends associating with black people.
- “You know Cliven, that political correctness is bad for America. A man should be able to say whatever he wants to say.” Let’s all pause for a moment and think about one or two things Bundy could say to Bakari that political correctness might advise against. Here’s one: “If would be better if you and your family were still slaves.”
- Bundy says that the government “was in on [slavery],” which was true. The U.S. government largely supported slavery in states where it was allowed until the 1860s. Then some stuff happened.
- “A brave white man like you might be just what we need to put an end to this political correctness stuff in America.” Reminder: Bundy is not the person running for office.
- For some reason, the ad never mentions the thing Bundy is actually famous for—his stand-off with the federal government over cattle grazing.
- The entire thing seems aimed at assuaging the fears of white conservatives that there are things they could theoretically say or do that other people might consider racist. Don’t worry, Bakari’s ad implies, nothing white people do could ever be racist. Only black people can be racist.
- The music playing in the background of the ad sounds like a cheap ripoff of Ennio Morricone, because of course it does.
- As a white man who isn’t scared to talk about race (who also happens to have a black friend), Bundy ends the ad by challenging Holder to a debate on race. Apparently, no white person (dressed as a cowboy) has ever been brave enough to challenge Holder on race while standing next to his black friend (also dressed as a cowboy). Holder really has no choice but to accept.
- Bakari says that Holder clearly isn’t too busy to fly out to Law Vegas and debate Bundy about race because the Attorney General had time to visit Ferguson, Mo., during the height of the riots there earlier this year.
- “It’s almost like black folks think white folks owe them something.”
Bakari is running to represent Nevada’s first congressional district, which includes the city of Las Vegas and its left-leaning electorate, so he definitely has his work cut out for him.
Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.