One of the things we learned from the Forbes interview with Donald Trump’s son-in-law yesterday was that he ran the data mining operation for the campaign, an operation he attributes to Trump’s win on election day. According to Kushner, the Trump campaign was leaner and more efficient with its ad spending, and one of the things that he acknowledged was that he targeted NCIS viewers with anti-Obamacare ads, and The Walking Dead viewers with anti-immigration ads.
It makes total sense, too. NCIS viewers are older, wealthier and more conservative, and they’re either on Medicare or they don’t otherwise have to rely on Obamacare, a program most helpful to the young and impoverished.
The decision to tap into the anti-immigration fears of The Walking Dead viewers, however, is a little more psychotic. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, at first, because The Walking Dead — for all of its earlier problems — is a remarkably diverse show now. The cast, believe it or not, is largely representative of America.
But this is why targeting those viewers is sinister. The Walking Dead is all about fear of outsiders. That is the core theme of The Walking Dead: Don’t trust anyone you don’t already know. And when Kushner was running those ads in Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, what was happening on the most popular show on television? An outsider by the name of Negan had come in and had taken over. One minute, viewers are watching a guy from another camp stroll in and bash in the heads of our favorite survivors, and the next minute, there’s an ad from Donald Trump warning that hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees were going to flood into our country and take our jobs and commit terrorist acts. Trump was going to build a wall to keep out the immigrants, just as Alexandria had built a wall to keep out zombies and other threats.
It’s cynical and twisted and f*cked up, but that’s almost certainly why it was so effective. The Walking Dead breeds fear of “others,” and the Trump campaign tapped directly into it.