Charles Booker, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate for Kentucky, has delivered a powerful message in a new campaign ad that calls out opponent and Republican incumbent Rand Paul over his effort to block 2020 anti-lynching legislation.
“Pain of our Past,” although visually triggering, remains true to its message, with Booker entering the ad with a noose around his neck. The ad, which you can watch at the top of this post, provides a content warning before the opening image of a lynching victim dangling from a tree.
While Booker speaks directly to the camera with the noose placed around his neck, he details how in 2020, Paul worked to block anti-lynching legislation. Paul’s particular stance on this issue is the focal point of Booker’s ad, implying that the current divisive nature of American politics is aided by politicians such as Paul. “Do we move forward together? Or do we let politicians like Rand Paul forever hold us back and drive us apart?” Booker says.
Although “Pain of Past” focuses on Paul’s 2020 politics, it does not mention Paul co-sponsoring the 2022 revised Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which was cleared by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The campaign ad dropped on YouTube ahead of the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, between Booker and Paul. Booker is the first Black major party nominee, declaring this senatorial race as particularly noteworthy. Twenty-three years after Kentucky’s last Democrat-elected U.S. Senator held office, in Sen. Wendell Ford, Booker has been openly and consistently discussing issues such as racial and economic disparities that tend to make Kentucky voters uncomfortable.
Booker, aware of the potential for mixed reactions, said he wanted to convey his “sincerity” in order to convey how clear Kentucky’s choice for U.S. Senate should be.
But the inclusion of a noose in a political ad provoked quick responses.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Paul responded: “I fought to pass a strong anti-lynching bill. To this day, I continue to work hand in hand with community leaders on issues like violence and its effect on Louisville’s youth and their education and look forward to keeping up those efforts when I’m re-elected this November.”
Others took to Twitter and voiced their admiration for Booker’s ad.
Professor and chair of the Pan-African Studies Department at the University of Louisville, Ricky L. Jones, tweeted: “Some people are calling this ‘controversial’ — even ‘disgusting.’ I think it’s one of the most powerful political ads I’ve ever seen!”