Ohio’s GOP Senate Primary: the race to find out who can dog whistle the loudest

Less than a month before voters head to the polls in Ohio’s primary elections, a pair of frontrunners in a crowded GOP field seem to be in a battle to see who can dog whistle at Ohio’s racists most overtly. For his part, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel released a campaign ad Tuesday (4/5/22) in which he uses the backdrop of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL to claim that it’s definitely not racist to be against the (fake) specter of Critical Race Theory. Which, he can prove how definitely not-racist he is with some evidence: he’s got pictures of himself in the military standing with some black marines. 

(Yep, the classic “Some of my best friends are black” trope, so well known it’s got its own Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_not_racist,_I_have_black_friends)

The ad made waves immediately, both of the (probably) intentional variety, as well as the (probably) unintentional. On the likely intentional, any-publicity-is-good-publicity side, was the ridiculous mini-feud Mandel dove into by using the ad to pick a Twitter argument with Bernice King, the daughter of Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. 

Mandel first tagged her in a post purporting to “thank” her for “motivating” him to make the ad (Mandel publicly accused Ms. King of being a “race politics profiteer” in 2021). Then, when she responded, he doubled down, advising her with true GOP trollishess that she should “learn history better” since he, Josh Mandel, knows much more about MLK Jr’s legacy than she. 

But it was the likely unintentional controversy sparked by the ad that got the most internet laughs of the day. In this one, internet sleuths claimed that one of the photos Mandel includes in the ad (for the aforementioned purpose of “proving” Mandel is Not-A-Racist by proving that he’s been photographed with black people before) appeared to have Mandel’s head photoshopped onto a black soldier’s body. 

Mandel’s campaign scrambled to respond, eventually claiming that Mandel’s dark hands in the photo were the fault of a “darkening filter” used for the ads–but without attempting to explain how the “filter” could have darkened only Mandel’s hands but not his face. 

It should be noted, this type of racist dog whistling is nothing new for Mandel. In fact, just this past February Mandel was in hot water for claiming he’d been “mistreated” by black constituents at a campaign event. 

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, the other prominently racist GOP frontrunner in Ohio’s Senate primary released a dog whistling ad of his own! In it, J.D. Vance, the venture capitalist who’s never held elected office, faces the camera and asks his ad’s viewers “Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?” before claiming that white Ohioans are being accused of racism as drugs and “Democrat voters” flood the southern border, then, bafflingly seems to somehow blame Mexico for his own mother’s drug addiction. 

The Ohio primary will be held May 3rd and will determine which candidates, Republican and Democrat, will vie for retiring Senator Rob Portman’s vacated seat.

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