Last month, people rightfully got angry when a sermon the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered was used to sell Dodge Ram trucks. King, who spent his final years increasingly critical of capitalism, probably would not have appreciated the appropriation of his message that way during the Super Bowl.
President’s Day is basically little more than a day for Abe Lincoln impersonators to cash in on their height and odd facial musculature and shill for local car dealerships. Fine. We get that. But this ubiquitous President’s Day Volvo ad seems to normalize our dysfunctional presidency a little too much for our comfort.
Here’s the voiceover, emphasis ours:
One of the things we admire most about the United States is anyone can be president with enough heart and determination no matter their race, religion or gender. At Volvo, we’re always looking towards the future and are inspired by Americans’ drive to give everyone the opportunity to prosper. This President’s Day, we’re celebrating the potential of all Americans … Whether you’re a past, present, or future president, tomorrow is driven by you.
I genuinely cannot think of something more absolutely false than the statement that “anyone can be president of the United States regardless of religion or gender.” We’ve gone 45 for 45 on Christian males, with one very obvious exception — a man whose tenure was so unsettling to millions of people that fascism exploded back into the public sphere. Meanwhile, the most recent woman to make the attempt generates headlines like this, more than a year later.
Then there’s the implication that the current Oval Office occupant displays “heart and determination.” That is just beyond disgusting. If you want a concise President’s Day illustration of who Trump is, it’s that he wanted to go golfing in Florida even though funerals for slain teenagers were taking place elsewhere in the same state, then pouted and raged at the TV all weekend when his advisers wouldn’t let him out of the house. He also, the New Yorker reports, tipped the scales of the Miss Universe pageant to favor countries where he had investments. So presidential!
Until 2010, Ford owned Volvo, but the company sold it to the mainland Chinese firm Geely Auto (although the division is still headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden). By aiming for something blandly inoffensive, a Swedish car manufacturer wound up normalizing the horror Americans live with every day. No wonder 170 political scientists in 2018’s presidential rankings poll put Trump in last place.
Fuck you, Volvo.