In Closing Ads, Trump Goes Dark While Clinton Goes Cozy
Donald Trump's campaign released his final campaign video on Friday. It began with ominous piano music playing under one of Trump's speeches. As he condemns the "corrupt political establishment," grainy archive footage of his opponent Hillary Clinton and world leaders is mixed with stern, disappointed faces of everyday Americans.
"I'm doing this for the people and the movement," Trump is heard saying to a cheering crowd. "We will take back this country for you and we will make America great again."
The two-minute video is also generous with footage of his crowded rallies.
But the ad was met with immediate criticism from those who noticed what they saw as anti-Semitic undertones. The Anti-Defamation League called out the Trump campaign for using images of Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and billionaire George Soros as examples of corruption. All three are Jewish.
"Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages," said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. "This needs to stop."
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken spoke out against the ad on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday.
"When I saw the ad, I thought that this was something of a German shepherd whistle, a dog-whistle, to a certain group in the United States. I think, I'm Jewish, so maybe I'm sensitive to it, but it clearly had sort of Elders of Zion kind of feel to it, international banking crisis ... uh, plot, or conspiracy rather, and then a number of Jews. So I think it does speak to a certain part of his alt-right base."
Franken went on to say the ad was "an appeal to some of the worst elements in our country as a closing argument."
The Trump campaign responded, saying it was "offended and concerned" that the ADL would engage in partisan politics. "Mr. Trump and his campaign have laid out important ideas, a vision and critical polices for our country," said Jason Greenblatt of the Trump Organization and Trump's Israel Advisory Committee. "The suggestion that the ad is anything else is completely uncalled for."
On Monday, the Clinton campaign released a closing statement of its own. In sharp contrast to the Trump ad, Clinton sits facing the camera and speaks directly to voters with a cozy background of lamps, picture frames and bookshelves. Without mentioning him by name, she appears to be responding to Trump's ominous tone seen on the campaign trail.
"Is America dark and divisive? Or hopeful and inclusive? Our core values are being tested in this election."
The Clinton campaign has been promoting the idea of staying positive in recent days. Traveling to several states before the election, Clinton has told crowds that "anger is not a plan."
The ads are essentially two-minute summaries of how each candidate chose to run for president. Trump found a passionate following by speaking to a base of voters who saw themselves as disenfranchised socially and economically and focused on threats to the nation like terrorism and illegal immigration. Trump rallied against the status quo and called for radical change in Washington.
Clinton, seen by many as the personification of that establishment, attempted to convey a more positive tone with her slogan "Stronger Together." That message was helped along by Michelle Obama, one of her most popular surrogates, who coined what later became an unofficial campaign slogan: " when they go low, we go high."
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.