Misulonas: Chrysler’s newest commercial has a message for America

Joseph Misulonas

Last Sunday, as millions of households finished watching Madonna perform during the Super Bowl halftime show, the greatest commercial in Super Bowl history was shown.

The title of the ad was “It’s Halftime in America.” The message was simple: America has hit hard times, and it’s easy to lose faith in our country. But we can bounce back and become great once again, just as the men and women in Detroit have shown.

The ad was growled out by Clint Eastwood, a fitting narrator for the tone of the commercial. He’s a leftover icon from an era of blue-collar sensibilities that many Americans today can’t relate to. He’s tough and grizzled, whereas our acting icons today – such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney – are smooth, suave and debonair.

Eastwood represents an America that no longer exists: an invulnerable superpower with unlimited economic and military might.

The last decade has torn away our protective shielding, exposing us to the dangers of terrorism and economic excess. His narration captures the vulnerability and the uncertainty facing all Americans today.

The real stars of the ad are the men and women of Detroit, who have experienced the harshest effects of the recession. They did not give up hope, and they continued to fight hard to get back to work.

Now the automobile industry is thriving thanks to their efforts.

Eastwood and Chrysler can claim that this ad is apolitical, but it is not. When Eastwood states, “The fog, division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead,” he’s clearly attacking the partisanship that is preventing any political action from improving the economy.

This ad is clearly political, but its message is bipartisan.

It is fitting that Chrysler made the ad and is the company behind this message. Chrysler is one of the iconic automobile manufacturers in the United States. Yet Chrysler was not invulnerable during the 2008 recession. The company filed for bankruptcy and was on the brink of collapse. But the government gave the company a bailout, and now the company is profitable again.

The story of Chrysler is not one about corporate welfare. It is an example of how free-market capitalism and government can work together to improve the economy. We do not have to radically alter the system or change the way corporations act. We just have to find pragmatic solutions to our problems.

Pragmatism is not a word often said in the political realm. It seems politicians are more worried about elections and blaming each other than finding time for pragmatism. They’re so busy trying to advance their platforms that they aren’t taking a deep enough look at how to solve our problems realistically.

The two parties agree on many things, and there are answers to our economic issues that we can all support. But pragmatism, much like Clint Eastwood, is an icon from a bygone era of American politics.

Perhaps the commercial is not a message for politicians. Maybe it’s a message for the public.

According to the Nielsen Corporation, it is estimated that 111.3 million people watched the Super Bowl last Sunday. There is only one demographic the Super Bowl aims at: Americans. Not the 1 percent, liberals, conservatives or independents. For one night, millions of Americans are united over a shared love of sports and funny (or at least expensive) commercials.

Detroit is by no means a utopia. The unemployment rate in Michigan is currently 9.8 percent. However, that is a steep drop from 14 percent, which was the unemployment rate in October 2009.

Things are beginning to look up in Detroit, and if it can get better there, it can get better anywhere.

The rest of the country should take a page out of Detroit’s playbook. We can’t lose faith, and we can’t be blinded by fear and uncertainty. We need to reject partisanship and embrace unity.

The power still rests with the people, and as long as the people are strong, the United States of America will be strong as well.

As the commercial says, “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again, and when we do, the world is gonna hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime, America, and our second half’s about to begin.”

I only hope we start our second half the right way.

Joseph Misulonas is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]

All opinions expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the columnist and do not reflect the views of The Daily Northwestern. If you would like to respond to the column, you may comment below, email the columnist or submit a 300-word letter to the editor to [email protected].