“Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio or China?…Under President Obama, [General Motors] cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China.”
So runs a radio spot broadcasting in Ohio, one of the most hotly contested swing states in this election. The add supporting Mitt Romney plays upon the resentment many voters feel towards President Obama concerning the massive loss of manufacturing jobs following the economic downturn in 2009. Though the majority of jobs lost by General Motors occurred in early 2009 as the company was facing bankruptcy, and before the newly inaugurated President had had any reasonable amount of time to pass legislation concerning the economy, many swing voters still associate the President with their economic misfortune. Yet this radio spot goes beyond the generic assertion that Obama has not done enough, or has taken the wrong actions, to fix our hurting economy. It appeals to even those who realize the relative helplessness of a new President in the face of an inherited economic collapse by making the bold claim that the jobs that should be returned to their rightful American owners are instead being exported to China. This claim shocks, infuriates, and sparks rage in the hearts of those voters who have been profoundly affected by the recession and the near collapse of the auto industry. After all, it’s China. China the successful Communist state, China our economic rival, China the Other. Why is President Obama allowing these Others to take the jobs that should belong to voters in Ohio?
The easy answer is that he isn’t. “We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” Greg Martin, the spokesperson for GM, is quoted as saying. “No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.” Similarly, Chrysler refuted these claims and assured its employees that Jeep production will not be outsourced to Chinese factories. In fact, CEO Sergio Marchionne assures his company that US production will actually expand by 2013, adding about 1,100 new employees.
So why does the Romney campaign continue to make these false claims, knowing that they will be refuted with lighting speed and with much more extensive research than his 20 second radio spot could ever provide? Because they know that swing voters don’t care. Ohio voters listening to the radio on the way to work or as they’re cooking dinner do not have the time to stop what they’re doing and fact check the statements they’ve just heard. Even those well-informed voters are constantly berated with the implied claim over and over again: Obama is exporting your job to undeserving China, Mitt Romney thinks you deserve what is rightfully yours. Despite the best efforts of GM, Chrysler and the Obama campaign to refute these accusations, there is simply not enough time left before the election to change the mind of those voters who have had this fabricated claim embedded in their minds.
We have now entered the phase of the campaign where all bets are off. This close to the election, almost any strategy to gain the upper hand goes. Now more than ever, voters cannot naively believe what they feel, hear or see. As spokesperson Martin said, we have “entered some parallel universe.” On the eve of the election, we have now entered the Twilight Zone.