Is the idea of illegal immigrants trying to cross the border from Mexico being shocked by an electrified fence funny? One candidate running for the open Kansas seat in the U.S. Senate thinks it’s hilarious, and he hopes voters in the Aug. 4 primary do as well.
Bob Hamilton, a political newcomer and businessman from the Kansas City area running in the Republican primary for Senate against well-known politicians Kris Kobach, Roger Marshall and Dave Lindstrom, has a new TV ad called "Puns" in which he stands at a breaker switch and says, "Electrify the wall," turns the switch on, and says, "Quit cryin’, liberals, it’s just a joke." He then breaks out in uproarious laughter.
Hamilton is a legitimate candidate in this up-in-the-air GOP primary. He has sunk millions of dollars into his campaign, and "Puns" is the 12th TV ad he has released to date. Compare that to Marshall’s eight ads, Kobach’s three and none for Lindstrom. Hamilton’s campaign has run two TV ads targeting Marshall but has so far not attacked Kobach — which might indicate that Hamilton is hoping to garner voters who like Kobach but are afraid he can’t win the general election against Democrat Barbara Bollier.
Hamilton is running a campaign heavy on conservative issues and is emphasizing Kobachian themes such as building a border wall, enacting anti-China policies and "standing with Trump." In effect, he’s offering GOP voters a chance to get Kobach but without actually getting Kobach.
Politicians joking about undocumented immigrants is nothing new. In 2011, Herman Cain, a businessman running for president, described at a campaign rally the type of border fence he wanted: "It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ’It will kill you – Warning.’" Even though the remark received cheers, not laughs, from the crowd, Cain later said that he was joking and that "America needs to get a sense of humor." Although he actually led in some polls in the fall of 2011, Cain eventually dropped out of the presidential race after reports of a possible extramarital affair surfaced.
Closer to home, in 2011, Kansas House member Virgil Peck made a comment of the same type at a statehouse committee meeting, saying, "Looks to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem." He added later that he was just "speaking like a southeast Kansas person."
Interestingly, while in his TV ad Hamilton implies that only "liberals" complain about these sorts of jokes, in both the Cain and Peck instances, Republicans joined Democrats in voicing their displeasure (or, as Hamilton puts it in his ad, their "cryin’"). Michelle Bachmann, a conservative congresswoman also running for president in 2012, said after Cain’s remark: "That was a joke, and this is no laughing matter. It’s important that we take this issue very seriously." And when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback – also a noted conservative – was asked about Peck’s joke, a pained look crossed his face as he noted how disappointed he was and urged Peck to apologize.
So is electrifying the border wall funny? Bob Hamilton thinks it is. We’ll find out if Republican voters do too on Aug. 4.