Bradley Byrne is a Republican congressman from Alabama. He's running for Senate this year, and we fear the scenario where we'd have to root for Jeff Sessions. The pressing question is which of these clowns does Doug Jones have the best chance of beating? The Republican nominee will have a partisan advantage of almost 27 points. You'd think the candidates competing to retire Jones could take it down a notch, but Byrne went full Willie Horton this week with a repulsive campaign ad.

The spot begins with Byrne sitting by a campfire. He holds a photo of his brother, Dale, who died in 2013.

BYRNE: When the towers fell, I knew my brother would be going to war. Dale was a true patriot. I can't bring him back. I miss him every day.

That's when Rep. Ilhan Omar's image, which is scary and brown, appears in the flames. This symbolizes that she is on fire. Byrne accuses Omar of “cheapening 9/11," like she's selling knockoff 9/11 souvenir merchandise in Chinatown. But Omar isn't the one using 9/11 — and the death of their own sibling — as a cheap cudgel against another politician.

Bradley Byrne for U.S. Senate | Dale

Colin Kaepernick's face also turns up in the embers. Byrne dismisses him as an “entitled athlete" who dishonors the flag. Kaepernick's big offense was kneeling in peaceful protest during the national anthem. The flag was not involved. Byrne can't even bother to get that correct when figuratively immolating the guy. Kaepernick also hasn't played professional football since 2017, but he's apparently still a free agent bogeyman for conservatives.

Byrne also made the unfounded claim that his fellow Congress members in the so-called “Squad" are “attacking America." He doesn't do them the courtesy of using their individual names but the ad features a sinister shot of Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley.

BYRNE: Dale fought for that right, but I will not let them tear our country apart. That's why I'm running for Senate.

Really? He's running for Senate to stop freshman congresswomen and a former football player from destroying the country? This ad doesn't even mention Doug Jones, who — unlike the “Squad" — Byrne might actually run against. Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley will never appear on an Alabama ballot.

It's probably because Democrats don't have to primarily appeal to drooling racists but most of their Senate candidates are targeting Mitch McConnell and, for fun, their actual Republican opponents. Byrne doesn't smear Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as an existential threat to America. He also must've grown accustomed to Nancy Pelosi's face because he doesn't toss the House speaker into the flames, either. She's the most powerful Democrat in the country and just dealt a major political blow to Donald Trump. (Byrne is attempting — pointlessly — to have her censured for doing her job.)

After the Cold War, Republicans searched for a new enemy, someone they could claim threatened the “American" way of life. Liberals were cast in this thankless role. But as the public face of liberalism and the Democratic Party grew more diverse, the othering and overt racial messaging became more obvious and repellent. Pelosi and Schumer are hardly conservative darlings, but they still look like “one of them." Omar in particular is the conservative nightmare made flesh. Republicans, regardless of their actual state or district, would always prefer to run against her.

There are five other candidates aside from Byrne and Sessions running in the Republican primary for US Senate. They are probably all terrible in their way, but as of now, Byrne is the worst. Well done, sir.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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