The Republican base tends to be older, which has forced the party to get creative when reaching out to younger voters. Earlier this year, for example, the RNC unveiled a pitch to millennials featuring a young man with ill-fitting clothes, awkwardly reading cue cards on energy policy. Last year, a Koch-financed group rolled out ads featuring someone in a creepy Uncle Sam costume with a giant head eager to perform gynecological exams.
But arguably nothing is quite as jaw-dropping as the latest Republican ad campaign targeting young women, which msnbc’s Irin Carmon described as the party’s “most condescending ad yet.”
The College Republican National Committee thinks it has unlocked the key to speaking to young women about pending gubernatorial elections: Make it about pretty wedding dresses. That’s how the party is attempting to win over a demographic it has long struggled to attract.The committee is spending $1 million on digital ads like “Say Yes to the Candidate.” Each one show a young woman eagerly browsing wedding dresses, in the mold of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” and treating each prospective dress as if it were a real-life candidate for office.
As best as I can tell, nearly identical ads have been created for Republican candidates in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Each ad features a young woman named Brittany shopping for a wedding dress, facing pressure from her mother to buy a less appealing Democratic dress, and then celebrating the Republican dress instead.
In the Florida ad, for example, the young woman uses five words never before uttered together in the English language: “The Rick Scott is perfect.”
Last month, the Republican message was that politics is like a lingerie party. This month, the Republican message is that politics is like shopping for a wedding dress.
Sometimes. it’s hard not to wonder whether Republicans are trying to drive women voters away on purpose.
Indeed, with an ad this dumb, GOP officials must realize that they risk creating a backlash. Time’s Charlotte Alter called the wedding-dress video “the most sexist Republican ad of the year,” which probably isn’t the headline party leaders were hoping for just a month before Election Day.
The more I watch the ad, the more inexplicable it becomes. The implication seems to be that young women are more right-wing than their parents’ generation, which isn’t even close to being true.
For that matter, if the target audience really is young women, talking down to them and comparing public affairs to dress shopping is the kind of message that’s actually quite insulting. As Esther Breger put it, “Voting is hard, right ladies? Luckily, the College Republican National Committee is here to help put things in terms we’ll understand: wedding dresses. Also reality shows.”
Amanda Marcotte added, “At this point, it’s hard not to wonder if the people being hired to do outreach to women on behalf of Republican candidates aren’t all a bunch of Democratic moles.”
Indeed, as happy as the College Republican National Committee might be with its ads, I have a hunch it’s Democrats who are far happier.