Tim Michels: Jerk

I’ve made political ads. They’re painstaking. You decide on the theme. You work over the script. Then you film and film and film. You do the same line over and over again. Then you go into the editing room and pick the one that you think works best. Is my inflection just right on that one? Did I emphasize the wrong word there? Every fraction of a second in one of these ads is a conscious decision.

So, that’s why I think it’s fair to look at Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels’ latest ad on immigration and conclude that he’s a jerk.

The content of the Michels’ ad is offensive enough. Michels proudly proclaims that he built Donald Trump a prototype of a border wall — not mentioning that he hoped his construction company would win a contract to build it and add to his fortune. He touts his endorsement from Trump and then proclaims that for “illegals” there should be “no drivers license, no benefits and no tuition.”

No tuition? Does he mean he supports Bernie Sanders’ free tuition proposal but only for “illegals”? Ironically, earlier in the ad Michels calls Pres. Joe Biden “utterly incompetent.” I suppose I get what Michels intends when he says “no tuition” but isn’t that murky phrasing utterly incompetent? Again, I’m not nitpicking here. Campaigns parse every syllable of a 30 second ad. To let a sloppy phrase like that get through really does call into question Michels’ competence.

What a jerk.

And, of course, never mind that people need drivers licenses to get to jobs so that they can, you know, pay taxes, which by the way, undocumented immigrants do a whole lot more of than sap benefits. And where would Wisconsin’s economy — which already suffers from a labor shortage — be if we deported all those undocumented workers?

For a guy who’s running as a successful big businessman with all the answers, to not understand how important these workers are to the economy is, well, utterly incompetent.

Michels is so clearly race-baiting that he goes out of his way to say that he’s not. “That’s not racist,” he declares near the end of his ad, thus underscoring just how much it is just that.

But in addition to the content there’s the tone. Michels’ whole affectation is one of snarky, snide condescension. His last utterance is especially off-putting. He says, “When I’m governor that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” meaning he’s going to deny all those things to the “illegals”. You’ve got to watch his ad to see if you agree with me, but I think there’s a certain jerkiness in the way that line is delivered that cannot be overlooked. Once again, don’t forget that Michels probably rehearsed and recorded that line a dozen times and he and his campaign chose for him to come off just that way, like an arrogant, entitled know-it-all.

Michels is clearly trying to appeal to the most rabid of the Trumpy base. He’s going straight for their resentments. (And by the way, it would be interesting to know if Michels’ company has ever employed any “illegals.” My guess is that his primary opponents are hard at work researching that as I write.)

With Trump’s endorsement and millions of dollars of his own money to spend on the campaign, the odds are good that this New York millionaire will win his party’s nomination. I have to say I like the contrast between the understated, genuinely nice and full-time Wisconsin resident Tony Evers and Michels, who is by my reckoning a real jerk.

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “Tim Michels: Jerk

  1. He’s lost me, too. This ain’t no humble man of the people.

    His mansion out east cost $17 million. You could buy half of Pine Lake for that.


  2. A perfect example of what politics has devolved to.

    Republicans discovered that looking like a stupid jerk scores well with focus groups. The idea that a candidate is supposed to convey a set of values leading to cogent policy proposals is elitist.

    Apparently it’s effective to market a candidate like a fast food burger. So desirable in the ads, so misshapen and unhealthy for you in reality. The main principle here is that the ad campaign should have little or nothing to do with reality. Disparage the other guy, pose for holy pictures, get into office, then cut taxes and regulation for yourself and your aristocratic friends.

    I don’t even believe that Republicans are opposed to immigration. What’s so bad about an illegal, uneducated, unorganized work force? They’re cheap! Keep them that way. Republicans don’t have to be racist to play on the fears of the voters. Make Democrats squirm trying to justify letting 10.5 million immigrants into the country illegally and then trying to figure out what rights they should have. Now there’s an interesting issue you don’t want to get into — just blame the liberals.

    A good ad elicits an emotional response. I’ll always forget Tom’s, oh what was his name, two runs for governor. I probably agreed with him on 90% of the issues and even I couldn’t think of a reason to vote for him based on his ads. The other guy rode a motorcycle around the state; he won. Another governor won wearing a red vest.

    Of course, you can’t figure out what tuition Tim Michels is talking about. Those three bullet points in the ad are utterly nonsensical. None of that is ever going to happen. What benefits? But the idea that a person who entered this country illegally might be getting a governmental benefit that you don’t sure burns your ass, doesn’t it? Maybe enough to build a wall.


  3. Not to mention his irritating radio ad boasting about what an outsider he is and how he’ll turn Madison upside-down. He’s not an outsider. He made a good chunk of his fortune by getting government contracts – he’s essentially a lobbyist for road builders. Makes me wish we had a huge State-run road construction crew, because clearly we’re paying way too much for these contracts if the execs are getting this wealthy off our tax dollars.

    The term “illegals” is itself an offensive term. It’s used to denote that “these people” broke the law. But lots of us break laws. Are we all “illegals”? What’s so special about immigration law compared to, say, traffic law? They’re all laws that are on the books. It’s simply a derogatory term and unbecoming of a candidate for Governor.

    This is the Trump effect. It used to be taboo to be a crude, mean-spirited loudmouth. Now it’s a selling point. America, is this who we are?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: