Sunday, March 30, 2008

Branding the Republicans

Consumers may not realize the amount of effort and thought that goes into Brands. "Kleenex" and "Xerox" lead the fight to keep their brands from becoming generic terms for "tissue" and "photocopy." Because so much money is at stake.

We Progressives are in a unique time and place to re-position our Brand. Let's do it, and stop letting the Republicans do it for us. Establish both our Brand and theirs, and we will turn the Republican's strength into a weakness. We have to.

Because so much is at stake.

How can we get through to the low information electorate quickly and simply? There's so much to cover.

The contaminated pet food and toys that strikes the most vulnerable of those we love?

The senseless war that has killed, damaged, and endangered the least vulnerable element of our society, the military, and left it unable to do its job?

The ridiculous tax cut and deregulation policies which crumble the foundations of our roads and bridges, our education and our skills, our business and our dollars?

It's everywhere. It's huge. How do we sum up ALL the cronyism, corruption, and callousness?


They bought it, they broke it, and now they own it.


They've been whining about it, flooding our airwaves with it, and screaming about it for long enough. Let's hang it around their necks.


For thirty years the Republican party has been defining our brand for us. We are the "tax and spend" party, the "wimpy on National Defense" party, the "elitist, latte drinking, Volvo driving," party. The fearsome, horrible, ineffectual, nanny state people who have been damned with the label "liberals."

Okay. So we're Progressives. It even sounds better. As Democrats, we will differentiate ourselves from the Republicans by advancing Progressive ideals and policy.

Democrats want to fix all the stuff the Republicans broke.

No more of this sidling over to the Republicans. No more of this "me too" campaigning. What distinguishes the different dish soaps, laundry detergents, and other cleaning products that fill the aisle in the supermarket? Not much, frankly. And they know that. So they hammer at Their Brand. They never, never, never say their dish soap is in any way like another dish soap.

Because that's not how you capture the market. The way to capture the market is to say, loudly and clearly and constantly, that their brand is Different! and thus... Better!

So we must do the same.

The Republicans have destroyed their brand. They hope the electorate will not notice. That's why McCain is campaigning as an American's American in America for Americans who are proud of being Americans.

McCain, the Republican, isn't campaigning as a Republican. They know their brand is screwed. They're hoping the voters won't notice. They're hoping we won't notice.

We can't make this just another stunt they get away with.

They bought it, they broke it, they own it.


End this talk of "Bush administration," and "the conservative mindset" and the "Neocons," and the "religious right." These are holes, ingredients they can label as something their brand no longer has. Of course, it's lies. That's why they say it. But unless and until they change the name of their party, they can't take the Republican out of the party. That's what they are. That's what they all are.

All the lies, betrayals, treason, secrecy, mayhem, and bloodshed they have perpetrated is Republican.

It's ALL Republican.

The falling dollar, bleak economic picture, and high prices at the pumps and produce counter?


The malfeasance and bribery and contempt for our press, our government, and our freedoms?


The ruthless destruction of our homes, our children, and our lives?


Make that word the horror it is. Create in the electorate the same revulsion the word has come to mean for us, who understand it, who realize what's going on, who know how important it is that we break the linkage between what people think they are getting, and what they actually get when they vote:


All of them. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Gonzales, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld. The Iraq war, the wrecked economy, the dangerous goods they let into our country and the dangerous ideas they have lulled and lured the electorate with.

Sum it all up in who they are running for President, for Senator, for Representatives, for National, for State, for Local.

These are Republicans.

Now we know what happens when we vote for Republicans, don't we?

Every complaint on the street or at the checkout counter, every political discussion, every cry of disillusionment and despair, must be countered with their Brand.

Republican. That's the problem.

We can't let McCain run away from it. He's gone along with everything they did. He's sucking up to their movers and shakers. He's literally embraced Bush.

He's a Republican.

All this maverick stuff is just talk. Maverick started as a designation for unbranded calves, which anyone could pick up. But, of course, calling him a maverick is a lie. He's sooooo branded.


It's not just Bush, or imperialism, or deregulation, or Katrina or Iraq. It's all of it; every looted dollar and dead soldier.

They bought it, they broke it, and they own it.


Let no one forget.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

At this busy time... let's thank Karl Rove.

I want to buy Karl Rove a great big thank you card with puppies and kittens on it.

It seems too small a gesture for the way he has transformed our country.

Yes, there's the terrible, twisted, sick things he made possible. I am not discounting them. At all.

But in the classic, evil sows the seeds of its own destruction kind of way, he has been responsible for two sea changes.

One is the rise of the worst government policies ever, that have brought us to the brink of annihilation.

But he also paved the way for us to rise from these ashes.

What the heck do I mean?

I have a movie.

A blend of The Boys From Brazil and The Manchurian Candidate.

At the dawn of the Goldwater era, a band of renegade scientists began an bold, audacious project. They recruited new concepts from others of their kind, trained before the school boards began cutting evolution out of the textbooks, and genetically engineered a very specific type of man.

He was designed to be an unconventionally masculine man and was placed in the most mercilessly conventional of conservative enclaves. A father figure would be provided, but one who was especially deemed lacking in what his environment considered the most important quality in a father. It was an upbringing cruel enough to create resentments as deep and unyielding as granite.

Contempt. How could Karl Rove not feel contempt and anger towards the attitudes around him that never accepted him, never supported him, and made him feel inadequate and inferior? But he buried it deep. He would show them!

At a critical time in his adolescence, the plotters provided father figures who applauded his achievements and tutored him in the dark arts. At a critical time in his adulthood, they waited for his ambition to fire over an array of proper candidates.

When it did fire, their project had learned all the dirty ways to win. Because he had to win. He had to show them. He bored from within until he had the most secure and powerful position in government, balking at nothing to achieve his goal. Always with his secrets and insecurities buried under layers of pride and ambition and the stinging lash of contempt.

If Karl Rove were a secret agent, raised since birth, trained by exacting masters, to destroy the Republican party, he couldn't have done any better.

After all, he’s driven the man under his tutelage into record low levels of approval, presided over record levels of corruption, and broken the Republican party for at least a generation to come.

And that's not all!

He lured weak reeds from the opposing party into his cunning plan, letting them destroy themselves by allying themselves with the party he was bringing down. All the corruptible and power-mad elements of the other party also succumbed to his siren song of hate, division, and dirty tactics.

And now, I am seeing something that only a chaotic, desperate, terrible time can create.

Political realignment.

We know how badly Rove damaged the Republican party. But he has also damaged the go-along, get-along, we-love-lobbyists-too! wing of the Democratic party as well.

That's the part Hillary belonged to. Her weaknesses, her dirty tactics, her willingness to do anything to win; they are all working against her in the atmosphere Rove has created in today's electorate.

She's refusing to quit because she, and those around her, can't believe the rules have changed. It always worked before. She's not doing anything different, but it's not working.

Because things have changed.

And Karl Rove; more than seminars and position papers and the many many working diligently to restore sense and accountability to our government, more than politicians and speeches and good intentions; Karl Rove has done that.

Karl Rove is the one I hold most responsible for Iraq, Katrina, the shredding of our Constitution and the implementation of torture in our name. Without his actions, we wouldn't have the Bush administration and all that followed.

We wouldn't have people waking up and looking around and going, "Damn. This is really screwed."

Sadly, this is apparently what it takes. A complete, spectacular, and utter meltdown.

Courtesy, more than any other, of this one man.

I want him to know he made it possible.

I want to say, "Thank you," to Karl Rove.

Monday, March 24, 2008

This One's for the Whiners

I'm reading a lot of handwringing over the entirely overblown Reverend Wright flap. The Republicans found something to pick at. Oh, it's just terrible that Obama goes to a church where someone got angry in the pulpit. We have a politician who refused to throw someone under a bus. Oh, the horror.

Surprise! Surprise! Obama's a BLACK MAN!

Who didn't see that coming?

What? You were surprised that Obama knows other black people? And that some of these people might have encountered racism in their lives? And that some of these people might be angry about it?

Did anyone think the Republicans weren't going to notice that? And come up with ways to remind people if they didn't notice?

Edwards? Loved the game he talked. But not so much the way he walked... before the primaries. Remember the Bankruptcy Bill, No Child Left Behind, and the Patriot Act?

John Edwards voted for them.

Thanks, John, you nutty populist you!

And HRC? People tell me they think "she's tough, and we need someone tough against the Republicans."

Yes, she's tough. But she's never tough against the Republicans!

Has anyone missed the fact that our current front runner came from nowhere to the front in such a short period of time? That's he's the front runner, and has the delegates, because of the simple reason that more people voted for him?

We ran a really smart white guy in 2000, and in 2004, and it was still close enough to steal.

Isn't insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Neither of our smart white guys was able to deflect Republican attacks properly. And no one is sorrier than I am that our smart white woman didn't figure out a way to handle Republicans back when, and still doesn't.

So now we have a smart black guy who seems to be able to overcome the horrible handicap of being a black man, AND deflect both Republican and Democratic attacks, AND gives speeches good enough to make all kinds of people cry and give him money.

More money than either of his rivals.

So mark me down as thrilled with the way things are shaking. Democrats haven't gotten anywhere playing "me too" with the Republicans. The R's are always going to play dirtier, scream louder, and make bigger fools of themselves over lies and misconceptions. As long as the Democrats tried to play that same game, they lost. Because the R's play it better and with more gusto.

We needed a clear difference.

So we're running the polar opposite of W.

If you find ways of whining now, you'll just have to wait for Jesus himself. Though he'd have to shave the beard and cut his hair. And he's hanging around with the dregs of society! Those lepers are going to hurt him in the polls. Sure, that Sermon on the Mount thing was good, but when is he going to give a long wonky speech laying out every aspect of his policies?

In this world, we run human beings. With all their frailties, inconsistencies, flaws and (hat tip to the 60's) hangups. All that can be given to us is to choose the best person we can.

And that's what I think we've got.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

About Last Ditch Criticism

The very idea of America is now under attack.

I am taking two candidates to task for their treatment of a particular skill of a third. People can still think what they think, and make up their own mind... after all, isn't this still America?

What does that wonderful phrase mean to us now?

I just had to share my disquiet, on a deep, visceral level, that both John McCain and Hilary Clinton have attacked Barack Obama's speeches on the basis that he offers hope.

Excuse my language, but WTF?

The oft-repeated disclaiming response about the effect Barack Obama's speeches have on the people who hear them is something that disturbs me.

People can come to their own decisions about his policies, his character, his campaign style, and what they might know, or not, about the people around him.

But I'm here to discuss his speeches.

Calling their effect "cult-like," claiming that "America needs more than speeches," and generally disclaiming any emotional stirring resulting from such exposure is more than cynical.

It's downright unAmerican.

Have we truly devolved as a country to the point where a man who gives speeches that stir positive emotions and evoke what I consider such true American sentiments as working together, accepting challenges, and being honest... can be attacked on that basis?

Are the other two leading candidates actually doing that?

Shredding the high points of our own history that includes speeches by such Presidents as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy? Such moral leaders as Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Such compelling appealers to our better nature as Clarence Darrow, Eugene Debs, Robert Kennedy, and Margaret Sanger? Such literally revolutionary speakers as Patrick Henry and then General George Washington?

Speeches that defined us, motivated us, and uplift us still?

Speeches that actually created our history, by changing minds and hearts?

Now, suddenly, doing such a difficult and important task is wrong?

By so doing, they are not simply running a negative campaign. They are deliberately, for short-term personal gain, attempting to undercut, tarnish, and destroy the mythological history that, for good or ill, at least bound us together and gave us something to reach for.

That, at its best, let us accomplish incredible feats and create a dream so powerful it was named after us.

The American Dream. Whether it came true often enough or not, it was there, an inspiration to an aspiration. That things can be better.

Even more powerful; that we can make it better.

More powerful yet; that we should.

Despite the rise of media campaigns, catchy ads, and relentless focus groups, we have, in these speeches, a reminder of something that is a constant in not only our American history, but in our entire history. Before film, before radio, even before writing, there was words.

The sound of a human voice reaching out.

It can stir us as nothing else can. It pulls us along, capturing our minds and caressing our hearts.

It can do things nothing else can. No ad can punch through preconceptions, no article can divert misconceptions, no medium can stir new conceptions, as purely and precisely as a good speech.

Have we been ground into the dirt so deeply that this ability is now merely another item to be spun and muddied and stripped of all meaning?

That the mere human act of being moved by another's words is fodder for devaluation and diversion, something to be mocked and mutilated?

Inspiring speeches made our country. It created, shaped, and improved our country. Something, anything, that can reach people and unite them towards some worthy goal is a precious gift.

Whereever it appears, however it is delivered, and whoever is able to do it, this is something we, as Americans, as humanitarians, and as people, should treasure.

This is something we should protect.

What I'm saying is that it is perfectly all right to debate whether or not the person making the speech can deliver on their promises, implied or otherwise. We can even discuss whether those promises should be made. We can decide for ourselves if we want to answer the call to make it happen, or not.

But making fun of hope?

Disparaging a positive emotion, a deep need, a human motivator, and, sometimes, the only thing left?

We have candidates asking for our support to make our world a better place. They all have different visions and abilities, and we can choose among them for reasons of our own.

We can choose the world we want, a vote for what we want it to be.

But I, for one, do not want a world without hope.