It has long been suspected that if you lie about something long enough, the lie becomes believable. Nowhere is this theory truer than in the sport of politics. In fact, all knowledgeable charmers know of this rule and practice it to sobriety. Except Ted Kennedy, of course, he lies often and well but he does nothing to sobriety.
I have been involved with advertising and marketing for more than a three decades and I know that the key to effective communication is both reach and frequency. Since politics is about marketing an idea, or a lie, efficiently, there are parallels that can be easily drawn between selling soap or canned soup and social promises. Say it well and say it often. Believe me, it works. The good, the bad and the ugly do it and they do it because it works. Clinton made a political career following that communications rule but so did others like Reagan, JFK, Eisenhower and FDR. In fact every patriot and every two-bit hustler that gets into public life follows the same tactic, it is only the message, or the lie, that changes between one and the other.
Some politicians do it better than others. Communicate, that is. No, I am not talking about the speeches they give or about how well they deliver them, although that is certainly a part of the overall effectiveness of a good communications plan. I am talking more about finding the right message, the unique selling proposition that every core idea must convey well in order to work at convincing the public to follow a certain pre-determined set of actions. Reaching this tactical plateau is not always easy and there is a lot of thinking involved in producing a cohesive set of messages that will inevitably and inexorably fill in the gaps needed to make a solid surface for a given concept to run smoothly in. In politics, as well as in product marketing, some of these gaps are positive, some are negative and some are simply contrived out of thin air when nothing else is available. We do all this in order to make some hay out of what is often very little substance. In other words, convincing people the art of the concepts prestidigitator.
But, there are also noticeable differences between product marketing and the marketing of political ideas. For instance market research and how it is applied. Product marketing calls it market research and politicians call it polls but it’s basically the same thing. Actually it is the same thing, but it’s looked at with a much different attitude. In product marketing, the knowledgeable marketers research for what specific needs the consumer might really have and they do so with an eye to providing for that need in their product’s formulation, engineering or design. They research consumer and end-user habits and attitudes to determine how close they can come offering something that provides for that need and they willingly modify the product, sometimes often, to suit running market whims and fads.
Politicians do it a bit differently. The polls, which are mostly attitudinal in nature, very seldom, if ever, end up actually impacting the core idea. However, they almost always do impact the message, or the lie, as the case might be, that is used to promote that central philosophy or idea. That is how slogans are created and modified, talking points are developed and tested and new images and specific messages are put out, almost constantly, to merchandise what are basically immovable core concepts and philosophies.
Politics are immensely more complex than product marketing because political thoughts never seem to completely die out or disappear. At least not as easily as some outdated products do. For instance, and to illustrate the point, I can easily imagine Procter and Gamble coldly discontinuing a slow moving product or General Foods selling off a particularly unsuccessful division by basing their business decision on cold, hard facts and numbers. I have a much harder time imagining the Democratic Party giving up on higher taxes or bigger government. Oh, don’t get me wrong…things like that happen in politics also. It’s just that it doesn’t happen as easily as it does in business where the loyalties are more to the bottom line’s performance than to the product itself.
Which is why modern political marketing seems to be a lot more about finding new and better ways of scaring the daylights out of the opposition or screaming at them indirectly, through the media and published poll results, through lobbying efforts and via special group organizations. That is how modern day political charmers create the images they need for their opposition, destroy the solidity and common sense of an idea and create reputations, both good about themselves and bad about their opponents and how they mostly do this out of thin air.
But, even there, repetition is the key.
The democrats are great at staying on message. The GOP is great at swallowing that message hook, line and sinker.
Perhaps it is because the GOP is indeed the party of big business and we are better suited (trained?) to constantly look to make whatever changes are necessary to our "product" in order to meet what we perceive are market changes, regardless of how subtle they might be. We seem to carry on with these nuance adaptations even when the changes we think we need are contrived and presented to us by a) the Democrats or b) their subservient liberal media. And so the GOP has become the party of the "no, we are nots".
The Democrats define us or our agenda, they do so in ways that are convenient to them and we spend the next few years or the next few political campaigns trying to convince everyone that we are not at all like the democrats or the media have defined us. That propensity to dispute whatever is said about us instead of explaining clearly and honestly what we are, indeed, all about and why is sometimes taken to the extreme because we also have this knee jerk tendency to show that we are not really as bad as the Democrats make us. Amazingly we do that by actually going along with whatever the Democrats want from us. Which is really encouraging for the Democrats and, so, they do it to us all over again. Ahhh, this must be the wet dream of every incrementalist.
It is also possible that the GOP, after all these years, has fallen prey to the constant propaganda badgering, expertly delivered by the Democrats, and that they have now come to secretly believe that some of our core concepts might in fact be in need of tweaking or of major re-designing.
But, on the other hand, in what seems to be a peculiarly one sided marketing competition, the GOP never defines the Democrats except, perhaps, as "friends" or "colleagues" or "peers" which are soft and easy definitions to live with. Not heavy definitions like "mean spirited", "of the rich", "nuts" or "extremists" which require quite a bit more work.
They, the Democrats, never have to spend any of their valuable merchandising time correcting anything we don’t do to them and, so, they save their strength. We just don’t give them anything to correct. In turn, this means that they have all that extra time to define us one more time and to create that useful vicious circle over and over again.
And so it goes…
In extreme cases of "say it often and it will be believed" even some GOPers seem to have concluded that the definitions of themselves that the Democrats present them with might actually be correct or that the Democrat in question might present a better path to a continued presence in politics. Although this sounds amazing when looked at in the cold light of day, because it goes against what the GOP stands for, it is true nevertheless. Why else would some of our "leaders" (followers?) spend so much time and effort carrying the water for the Democrats if this were not true?
Taking but a few examples, let’s look at what our party, as a whole, is doing about the 1st and 2nd Amendments. The GOP has endorsed the existing ban on "assault weapons", a definition created and applied by the Democratic Party to a number of guns by the expedient system of applying words and functions to looks with almost total disregard to the actual practical meaning of the definitions or to their real impact on society. The GOP has also allowed and endorsed a ban on high capacity magazines and on certain guns meeting arbitrary physical dimensions simply because they lend themselves easily to emotional presentations or to a one sided, contrived and often outright false interpretation of limited data. We are never told why any of these measures might actually reduce crime or by how much, only that we should hope that they do. This continues even after years of implementation and after we have the true facts right in front of us, facts that show that the measures have had no real impact whatsoever on the street violence that they were supposed to curtail. The GOP also approved CFR with an almost total disregard to the 1st Amendment of our Constitution and they have allowed the liberals to all but take free religious expression away from the public square. In doing all that, they have played right into the hands of the Democratic Party and have provided them with handy tools to deconstruct our culture and to re-design our socio-political structure with ever increasingly weird interpretations of our formal documents of order.
Even more disturbing is the fact that, in discussing these issues with some self-defined conservative friends, I discover that some of "us", even when we remain basically unchanged in our core beliefs, will actually accept this sorry state of affairs because of convenience, sloth or because they don’t want to be taken for a "gun nut" or simply because they don’t own any "assault weapons" themselves or because they don’t want to come off as extremists. Extremists? What’s wrong with that? Were our Founding Fathers not extremists when they created this thing of ours and did their extremism not create the best socio-political system in the world to date? But, nooooo… we can’t have any of that now because, we have been told over and over again, by the Democrats and the liberal media mind you, that extremism, patriotism and conservatism is wrong, mean and ugly. We have also been told, over and over again, that we must all be tolerant of deplorable, immoral or anti-Constitutional conduct and that current conduct is, instead, what should be accepted as "normal" by us so that we might earn the right to be accepted as "normal"…by them.
And so, even some of the pure among us march to that happy liberal tune willingly and sometimes even blissfully, and they accept and endorse laws that go fully against the grain of our nation’s basic moral premise, against true conservatism and, often, against liberty and God Himself simply because we have been given this burning desire to be seen in an image that is being projected to us by our very own opposition, as if that was the true path to Honor or Glory.
In some cases it’s even worse than all that. Some ex-conservatives have become honestly liberalized. They actually believe that what the liberals are selling is actually better and that it really does provide a better fit for modern day America. And so they condone and even endorse abnormal sexual behavior, un-Constitutional laws, more government controls, more federal meddling, less God and more liberal thought while they rationalize all that by chanting the same mantra that the liberal, left wing feeds us every day.
So, you see, after all is said and done the old rules of communications do work on some. Say it often enough and it will become believable. And, sometimes, if you do your homework and you are talking about key social concepts and core political philosophies, these messages become not only believable but, also, in the minds of many, it becomes actually true.
And, hence, traditionally liberal philosophical feces, ideas that have been proven over and over again to be unworkable, inefficient and downright conceptual failures appear to be able to wash whiter than white, to be 99 and 44/100 percent pure and, even, to cure all ailments, from baldness to inequality and from tummy aches to poverty.
But, even after all that, my advise to those that are toying with the idea of switching to the dark side or of accepting some or all of what is being laid out by the charmers of the left, even by those charmers that still remain on the right side because of convenience or habit, is to look at the ground swell of "consumers" that have actually tested the liberal product and rejected it. Look not at the fancy merchandising but at the product itself and, remember that other golden rule:
- "THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS FREE LUNCHES"