It begins with a quiet family meal, as a mother places plates of food in front of her two young daughters. But there’s an empty chair at the head of the table. Another empty chair sits under a tree, as a combine harvests grain in the background. And another empty chair on a stage. Another at a school teacher’s desk. Next to a water cooler. In a gym. Then the empty chairs are in the streets.
Created by The Win Company, the ad features Joe Biden as the narrator, using the empty chair metaphor as he has in speeches like the one he gave at a seniors home in Pembroke Pines, FL earlier this month.
“200,000 deaths because of the coronavirus. All across this nation. And it means there are empty chairs at dining room tables and kitchen tables, that weeks and months ago were filled with a loved one–a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister. We can’t let the numbers become statistics and background noise. Just a blur that we see on the nightly news. 200,000 moms, dads, sons, daughters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, coworkers, who are no longer with us. And so many of them didn’t have to lose their lives to this virus.”
Of course, empty chairs are fraught symbols (and have been easily ridiculed in the past). Clint Eastwood famously talked to an empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention, rambling at it as a symbol of then-President Obama not showing up to solve America’s problems. Then there was Facebook’s first-ever TV ad back in 2012 that told us that chairs were like the social network.
But here those chairs are used with remarkable emotional effect: They illustrate the scale of death and loss felt across this country since March, as a result of an actual no-show pandemic plan from President Trump.
It’s a somber reminder of not just those who were lost, but of the promises made to deal with the pandemic by the current administration since it began. Like the chairs, those were empty, too.