Here’s a statement that isn’t remotely controversial: The political climate in the U.S. has grown increasingly polarized over the past fifteen-plus years. You can blame whatever you want for that–Obama, Donald Trump, Karl Rove, Fox News, 9/11, Hillary Clinton, etc–but the fact is that our politics these days are significantly more heated than they were a couple decades ago.
Here’s something else that isn’t even a tiny bit controversial: Jeep’s election season ad for the Grand Cherokee, which ignores the actual nature of our current political climate in order to avoid the possibility of saying anything that might turn off any potential Jeep buyers. The campaign, built around a split-screen that, er, attempts to point out that both Republicans and Democrats can run their errands just fine in a Jeep (or something) carries an implication that feels downright out-of-touch in the current environment: that a person’s politics are basically an insignificant consumer choice (like, say, what model SUV they drive), and ultimately none of those things matter between two equally valid sides.
Regardless of what side of the political divide you fall on, though, you probably don’t actually believe that. Democrats and Republicans might not agree on much right now, but they can all come together and acknowledge that the people on the other side of the political divide are monsters who are out to destroy America as we know it. The stakes are high for everybody, in other words, and a campaign built around the notion that political affiliation is a superficial decision between two sides that each make a lot of good points feels like a relic of a previous era. Perhaps if this campaign had launched during the 1996 race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole–or even the 2000 race between Al Gore and George W. Bush, who actually did agree on a lot of things–this would have been a safe, milquetoast ad for safe, milquetoast times. Running it in advance of the third debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, on the other hand, just looks downright out of touch.