Rick Perry, as we all know by now, is running for President again. His newest campaign ad doesn’t focus on his “tested leadership” and “proven results,” or on his new intentions to run a “show me, don’t tell me” campaign. Instead, it focuses on a Democrat who hasn’t even won the nomination yet: Hillary Clinton.
The ad features a bizarre cartoon of Clinton showing up to a movie theater and laughing through the “Previews of Coming Attractions,” which are a reel of video and audio clips of the former Secretary of State. It highlights the predictable slideshow of issues that have dominated conservative coverage of Clinton since her last campaign: her comments about Benghazi, the questions about her personal email server, among others. Throughout the montage, cartoon Clinton laughs in her seat.
If you’re thinking this feels like a throwback, you’re right. Clinton’s laughter was one of the multitude of things Republicans and the media focused on during her last campaign – instead of her policy positions or credentials. Her laugh was right up there with her hair, her choice of clothing, her age, and her cleavage.
Sexism is nothing new when it comes to the coverage and treatment of Clinton as a candidate. With this campaign ad, Perry is reaching to stoke the same fire that the media relied on in 2008 to discredit and invalidate Clinton as a candidate. Not because of her policy platforms, but because of a laugh that is simply unpresidential.
What does it say about Rick Perry the candidate 2.0 that within ten days of announcing his second shot at the presidency, he is already relying on a sexist trope to rake in cash?
In a piece appearing on Slate during the 2008 primary, John Dickerson pointed to the sexist history behind the criticism of Clinton’s laugh as a critique of her ability to lead a country:
Historically, men have categorized women’s laughter as a way to diminish them—they either cackle like a witch, or they titter like a schoolgirl.
Clinton, with decades of policy experience and, most recently, the badge of being the most traveled Secretary of State in the history of our country, cannot possible be called a schoolgirl. Women this powerful have always been witches. And Republicans want us to remember that.
This is why the ad doesn’t stop at the litany of issues they identify as problematic with Clinton’s candidacy. The “preview of coming attractions” playing on the screen in front of cartoon Clinton could have been an ad in their own right. But Perry, and his media team, chose to take a different rout.
If this is any indication of what we have to look forward in this next election cycle, the 2016 media blitz will be full of sexist ads like this one. Republicans want us to remember that Clinton is a woman insofar as they want to play on the misogyny of voters and remind them that her policy platforms and her experience don’t matter. After all, what we find front and center in this attack ad isn’t the substance of the GOP’s arguments as to why she isn’t the best option for America. It is a tired, sexist attack that they cannot let seem to let go.
With 504 days to go, and a Democratic primary still ahead of her, Hillary’s position as the frontrunner in Republican ads like Rick Perry’s means that she does, indeed, get the last laugh.