DeGroot: Say Hello To President McCain
Love the substance of the following offering from John de Groot, but disagree with the conclusion (for reasons I'll write about later). Enjoy.
Why Obama's Already Lost
By John de Groot
Most of us spend out lives in quiet desperation, unconsciously resonating to a constant barrage of Maslovian symbols and metaphors.
Which is why John McCain will defeat Barack Obama during the Presidential election several weeks from now in November.
You can bet the farm on it.
John McCain’s campaign appeals to the individual’s more basic needs – like safety, strength and familiarity.
While Barak Obama’s issues resonate to less basic and more transcendental needs -- like helping others and “doing the right thing.”
In short, the McCain campaign has done a far superior and more appealing job of “branding” their candidate than Obama – especially given the dangerous and uncertain nature of our times.
Or, as T.S. Eliot once said, “Humankind cannot stand very much reality.”
Which is why most Americans detest the news media -- without really knowing why.
It’s all about gut over grey matter.
Or tribal trumping linear.
Grasp all this, and you will understand the subliminal power behind the McCain campaign ad comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Moses.
Or the even stronger subliminal power of Sarah Palin’s one-liner comparing pit bulls to
As Obama himself admitted, “Palin IS a better story.”
With which Abraham Maslow would agree.
Because humankind loves a good story – whether it's true, or not.
It’s all the same fairy dust spin magic behind television shows like American Idol, Survivor and the Great Race that are built on the very same story arc as the McCain-Palin ticket.
Consider the title of Palin’s biography, published ONLY two days before she gave her stirring acceptance speech as John McCain’s running mate: “Sarah: How a hockey mom turned Alaska ’s political establishment upside down.”
Call it a textbook example of defining your “brand” in one sentence – especially the visceral juxtaposition of “hockey mom” versus “political establishment.”
As an aside, I am still waiting for someone from the thoughtful segment of the print media to consider exactly how “spontaneous” and “out-of-nowhere” McCain’s choice of Palin was in hard-boiled reality -- especially given how geared and ready her bio was for a I’m-one-of-you smitten audience.
Ours is a nation where millions of people believe “Dancing With the Stars” and “Wife Swap” are real – at the same time the news media is false.
How else can you explain the inherent double-speak in the belief that (a) because Palin knows nothing about Washington, she can somehow (b) restore the nation’s shattered faith in its government?
But then this is the same Republican spin that has made Obama’s Harvard education a handicap – and his global sophistication a pejorative.
All it takes is a little bit of Maslow and the right story arc to dazzle your average consumer. (Like, 'I know my Hummer is a gas hog, but it makes me FEEL so safe.')
Make no mistake. It’s not that I believe the average American is stupid. Rather, I think the problem stems from the frightening reality that the average American doesn’t have the time or quiet space to think.
We’re all just way too fucking stressed out, over-worked, in debt, scared shitless, hyper-entertained, bewildered by reality and way, way too damn busy.
The other night my wife and I are watching network television when this commercial comes on featuring a young man and woman resting in the shaded green of a tranquil city park.
Then, tap-dancing on our subconscious imprint of Adam and Eve, the woman in the commercial coyly tempts the man with a red popsicle.
Naturally, the man rejects her offer.
Not to worry, the woman assures him.
True, the popsicle is sweetened by corn syrup, she continues. However corn syrup is just as natural as sugar and it doesn’t contain anymore calories.
Somehow reassured by all this, the man happily accepts the crimson popsicle from the woman.
Now if you can’t grasp the blatant mind fuck at work here – or see the lurking serpent … then you might as well change the channel and tune my ranting out.
Which brings us to how and why the men and women working the strings for the McCain-Palin campaign are light years ahead of their Obama-Biden counterparts when it comes to branding their political product.
Naturally, the subtle business of branding is story you’ll never read in the mainstream media.
In politics, of course, the end game in branding a candidate is to reduce the differences between two candidates work like the old game of paper-scissors-rock.
Here’s how it’s played:
A. I have a problem with Palin’s total lack of experience.
B. You’re being sexist.
B. You don’t want to give women a chance.
A. But Biden’s an expert on global affairs.
B. So? He‘s also just another Old Boy Political Hack in Washington totally out of touch with what’s going on in America.
A. But isn’t McCain part of the same group of Washington insiders?
B. Absolutely not. He’s been a Washington maverick since day one. Plus why would you trade a War Hero for a Rock Star?
And so on.
Bottom line? Republicans are way better at playing scissors, paper and rock than the Democrats.
Once more, the GOP spin doctors have an uncanny sense for the power of a single word. Or to paraphrase the late Mark Twain, the Republicans know the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
Consider the sheer, visceral and subliminal word power at work in the titles of John McCain’s books and those written by Barack Obama.
“The Audacity of Hope.”
“Dreams of My Father.”
“Hopes and Dreams.”
“Character is Destiny.”
“Faith of My Fathers”
“Why Courage Matters”
“”Worth Fighting For”
Can you see the difference in the use of language?
Or more to the point, can you FEEL IT?
Because the dynamics at work here are all about FEELING as opposed to THINKING. Or EMOTION versus INTELLECT. Or CONNOTATION over DENOTATION.
Which is what the branding of John McCain and Sarah Palin is all about. Fact is, their target market is made up of voters who – like Chance the Gardner -- like to “watch” whatever’s on tonight. Period.
But don’t take my word for it. Instead, here’s an experiment you can try at home. The next time your watching television at home with a friend, or loved one, LOOK AT THE EXPRESSION ON THEIR FACE as they gaze at the screen. Now tell me what they look like.
Having tried this many, many times with good friends and people I care about deeply, I can tell you the expression I saw on most of their TV-trapped faces was that of a person FUCKING STONED.
And clearly somewhere else but “here” and “now,” or “in touch.” Which is shit sure why they like to watch.
True, there may be a tear shed for the dying child on Dr. House. And certainly there may be a hand-to-giggling-mouth in response to a sitcom father catching his son-in-law wearing a diaper on the front porch.
Or a quiet moment of pride as the young veteran just returned from Iraq tells the quiz show host how he wants to go back to be with his buddies after he wins some money for his pregnant wife.
And so on.
As untold millions of us sit and watch.
Before we vote.
But again, please don’t take my word for it.
Instead, Google ‘Sarah Palin’s Glasses” during the next commercial break. Which should both show and tell you exactly why Barack Obama and Joe Biden are politically dead men walking – brand-wise..
And Googling “Sarah Palin’s Glasses” just may also show and tell you why the print media no long has a prayer – audience-wise.
But then people like Mark Salter* already know that.
What? You never heard of Mark Salter?
Or Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth?
Or why you’d FEEL a whole lot different if your new next-door neighbor was named Obama rather than McCain?
Or why we like the Pope better in a skirt?
Or why Dr. House is America’s favorite drug addict?
You see, the thing of it is, these are all very intelligent questions in the world of branding where we spend our lives in quiet desperation transfixed before our super-sized HD TV.
But then who has time to think about all this heavy shit?
*Not that the mainstream news media, Wikipedia, or even Google will ever let you know how the blue-jeaned, kicked-back Mark Salter in his WWII aviator glasses just may be one of the smartest and most literate guys in town.