At this point in our long national political implosion, it goes without saying that the Republican Party of 2021 and beyond is fundamentally a party predicated on pleasing — and emulating — former President Donald Trump. That presents something of a problem for the GOP, given that Trump remains wildly unpopular among the broader body politic, to say nothing of the fact that trying to out-Trump Trump is basically a cosplay exercise in diminishing returns.
Nevertheless, that’s the name of the game these days, particularly as conservative primary races heat up in preparation for the 2022 midterms. The goal here seems not to be to appeal to as broad a swath of the overall electorate as possible, but instead to galvanize the most enthusiastically extreme members of your party to vault you into the general election, where you can worry about overall electability when you get there.
Having said all that, I still am forced to ask: What the absolute unglued hell is going on in this just-released campaign ad for aspiring Nevada governor Michele Fiore?
Despite her claim that she’s “spent my whole life fighting the establishment,” Fiore has actually spent the better part of the past decade holding public office of some sort, first as a member of the Nevada Assembly, and then as a city council member in Las Vegas. And while it’s true that her time in politics has been riddled with the sort of extremist dalliances that were once career suicide for an aspiring state executive, Fiore’s enthusiastic support for domestic terrorists, violent xenophobia, and lurch toward authoritarianism seem practically jejune by today’s post-Trumpian standards.
Which is perhaps why her campaign announcement video feels so psychotic, yet dull at the same time. Yes, it’s objectively weird to film a campaign ad framing you as a leader in which you just wander an empty stretch of desert by yourself, but the whole “opening fire on issues I don’t like” shpiel is incredibly warmed over at this point — so much so that it’s easy to overlook how awkwardly contrived the whole thing is. Watch the ad again, and pay special attention to the end when Fiore momentarily takes her hand off her sidearm, only to immediately return to clutching her weapon unconvincingly for the final few seconds. Sure, all campaign ads are staged pantomimes with little connection to real life, but in this case that disconnect is even more obvious than usual.
With years operating at various levels of Nevada state and local government, it’s entirely possible that Fiore has a legitimate shot at winning her party’s nomination, and even the governor’s race in general. If she does, though, my guess is it will be despite — not because of — an ad that smacks of trying too hard to be edgy.