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The GOP’s “Willie Horton” Obsession

The GOP Can’t Quit “Willie Horton”

Willie Horton has returned, and he is in Omaha, Nebraska. Or at least his reincarnation.

Last Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee began running an ad that hits all the beats of the original “Willie Horton” spot from the 1988 presidential election, from the attack on prison reform programs to the prominent use of imagery—violent, criminal Black men—with heavy racial undertones. In particular, this ad—called “Nikko”—ties state Sen. Brad Ashford, the Democratic candidate in the Omaha congressional race, to Nikko Jenkins, a former inmate who received early release and went on to kill four people.

What’s unusual, as Dara Lind notes for Vox, is that the “good time” law was pushed by Republican lawmakers and signed by a Republican governor. It’s a GOP accomplishment, and a good one—a sensible tweak to our overly draconian criminal justice laws. This ad wants to hit a Democrat, but it feels like friendly fire. That this is the national GOP’s approach, however, isn’t a surprise

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