So often we think about Native candidates in the context of winning and losing. But elections are much more than that because Native politicians changing the way people think about Native Americans. Stereotypes are shattered every time a campaign commercial is produced and aired on television or distributed online.
This is Trahant Reports.
Earlier this year one of the most powerful commercials was for a candidate who lost, Tatewin Means.
Imagine the voting citizens in South Dakota consuming a new kind of Native American image, a smart, professional Native woman, speaking Lakota.
This is a story that will help people reimagine the world because they see a professional Native woman who is clearly qualified for the state’s top legal job. In fact, you could argue she’s more qualified because of life experiences and challenges that another South Dakotan could never have even imagined. Mind. Blown.
Paulette Jordan has also changed the image of a Native American woman in Idaho.
Much of her story is told by national media. She has also had fun with her messages. Her most recent video stirs the ideal of what Idaho is …
In New Mexico, Deb Haaland’s TV commercial is way personal. She tells a story.
“I don’t look like most people in Congress. My life is different too. I pushed through college. And law school as a single mom,” she says. Then: “I am 30 years sober.”
That’s not a message often heard in political advertising. But Haaland said she wanted to be transparent with voters. She said it’s an important message in a state that has one of the highest DWI rates in the country.
Most political ads are about a candidate’s smarts. A resume. Or powerful connections. Haaland’s ads are human.
Campaign ads are always important to candidates. They tell voters about the person, why they are running, and a bit about their values. But this year’s commercials do something else: They tell the voters, that is citizens, that Native Americans are still here. And that Native American candidates bring something new to the larger national discourse.
Win or lose these images are now in the public discourse.
I am Mark Trahant.