“Corporate” politics and the Republic

200pxblandings1948 "Palin’s handlers are being hypocritical: They want to focus on her family life and her identity as a hockey mom when doing so helps them and to push aside any story that mars this perfect picture. Conservatives are always against identity politics until they are for it.

Nonetheless, what matters is not Palin’s personal life but whether she is prepared to assume the presidency if called upon. The actions of McCain’s lieutenants suggest that they know the answer. And they are doing everything they can to keep the media from finding it."  Dionne


Rick Davis likes to talk about the ’04 Bush Campaign as having been run in the "corporate" style and of himself as being the CEO of the McCain Campaign.

Am I surprised?  No. As a rhetorical and pedagogic device I sometimes feign surprise, prior ignorance, etc.  "Socratic Method?"  If you like that formulation, fine.

Davis is what is known in the gadfly trade as a "K Street lobbyist."  Perhaps he is a "former" lobbyist, having given up that life of shame for the prospect of marble pastures to come.  In fact his firm’s offices are on Union Street a few blocks from here rather than in that den of ultimate iniquity, the true K Street in the District of Columbia.  No matter.  The Capitol Grille is never far away.

Davis is an honest, if indiscreet man.  He has come to think of government as a business, nothing but a business, a business where "greed is good, and the  spoils are "where its happening."

Our Commonwealth participants in this exercize in civic conscience (SST), will rub their hands together and lecture about the evils of America.   They need to look in the mirror before they get too preachy.   In any event, the scale of events here dwarfs whatever happens in Ottawa, Canberra or wherever.  The best argument against the current size of the United States is an argument against gigantism itself and the mess it makes of representative government.

Back to Davis and company.  It is not an accident that the media mediocrities (not all of you) are talking about the president of the US as CEO of the country and the "branding" of this or that.  Parties, people, toothpaste – brand is the biggest buzzword of the day.  MANAGEMENT- CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS – MARKETING – ADVERTISING.  We used to talk about Montesquieu, Locke, Rousseau.  Now we talk politics as business.  Nothing more, especially on the Republic Party’s side (turnabout is fair play).  The Democrats are still a disorganized mob.  Obama sounds like he is interested in issues.  Perhaps that is the ultimate ploy.

Your political Brand is fading in Market share?  Mount an advertising campaign!  Your candidate does not titillate the herd?  Find something outrageous to do that will appeal to their more simple minded tendencies.

I am reminded of the Cary Grant character in the film, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House."  Ah, Myrna Loy….  Who could forget her?  In this epic, Mr. Blandings (CG) is a Madison Avenue advertising man who has to devise a slogan with which to sell "Wham" a kind of pork based canned meat.  He suffers mightily with this until his cook inadvertantly suggests "Wham! The Ham What Am!"  All is saved! The world devours mountains of these slaughter house scraps and Myrna gets the house of her dreams in Connecticutt. You should see it (the film).

The American peple are being sold a lot of "Wham."  They seem to like it.  pl



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31 Responses to “Corporate” politics and the Republic

  1. Cato says:

    That is a really enjoyable film. I particularly liked how Grant’s daughters treated him like a complete idiot since that’s how my daughter now treats me.

  2. McGee says:

    PL: “The best argument against the current size of the United States is an argument against gigantism itself and the mess it makes of representative government.”
    I’ve been thinking this for years now, but can’t remember anyone putting it into words quite so succinctly before. Certainly no one in the pundit or political class, since they require this big market to sell maximum product.
    One solution would be to chop the United States up into more manageable segments. Not sugggesting this, as I don’t see how it’s feasible without our red state/blue state differences rising to civil war-like proportions. But I can imagine a terrorist attack or natural catastrophe of epic proportions provoking a response which might tear the country apart in this way
    As an aside, just finished Ron Susskind’s “The Way of the World” which I’d recommend highly to all at this website. It’s probably the most meaningful book I’ve read in the past twenty years about the political realities we need to come to grips with in the post-cold war era. Immediately went out and bought copies for my kids. In addition to its eye-opening insights (at least for euro-centric me) into the state of the Islamic world and our relationship with it, or lack of one, I found the narratives on the probability/certainty of nuclear terrorism riveting. Wondering if anyone here has a background in this, and whether a separate discussion at some time might be possible. Would be glad to post a short excerpt from Susskind’s book as a jumping-off point, if there’s an interest….

  3. CP says:

    I’ll take a pass on “wham you mam” with the Alaskan predator.

  4. Depressing, isn’t it? You’re sounding like my lefty parents though. They told me as far back as 1972, when I was ten years old, that the American people were being brainwashed. I grew up to think they were just misguided (and I do honor my father and mother, but that doesn’t mean I think everything they say about politics is necessarily true). Too far to the left.
    (Just as many children of rock-ribbed American conservatives grow up to become liberals, also many children of far leftists grow up to be centrist liberals, or even neo-cons. Most of the neo-cons are ex-lefties)
    Now you’re sounding the same horn? What is this world coming to?

  5. Cieran says:

    Colonel Lang:
    I agree, but I don’t think that “Wham” is quite exactly the appropriate metaphor.
    I’d recommend Philip K. Dick’s classic “Ubik” instead. You really have to get into the fantasy/speculative fiction realm to capture the behaviors of the current political scene!

  6. zanzibar says:

    Why can’t the “Republic Party” that does such a good job in selling Wham! actually do even half as good a job in running the “enterprise” after they get the CEO job?
    Oh! – greed is good, and the spoils are “where its happening.” – yes, they are doing an excellent job!
    Four more years, with double helping of Wham!, please.

  7. bstr says:

    Damm right the folks like Whamm! The Jocobins who have controled the political ball in the United States for nearly eight years have executed the most brilliant cognitive bait and switch yet. Based on our wide populist resentment of anything “elite” they have constructed a working class hero in Pallin, who can be counted upon to deconstruct into a corporatist lackey upon arrival in the capital.

  8. Mark Logan says:

    I was thinking along this same line myself this morning after hearing Obama
    speak. He needs to fight the
    BS and smears, sure enough,
    but I would advise him to use more quotable “zingers” to get the refutations repeated and spread. Lord knows they’re pitching slow
    fastballs over the middle of the plate. Smack a few of them out.
    Over explaining is a very, very bad habit for a leader. He needs to break that one ASAP.

  9. dcgaffer says:

    Ah, Blandings is a classic.
    The ills you describe could arguably laid a the feet of two Supreme Court decisions: the former recent the latter over many years.
    1. Money equals speech.
    2. Corporations are “persons.”
    I think Jefferson would agree.
    Gigantasm is not the problem, per se. I’d argue that the problem is more that our political boundaries, i.e. the states in may cases no longer relate to where people live and their interests. People in Trenton are aligned with Philly, not NJ. People in No VA are aligned with Washington, not the Shenandoah or Richmond, etc, etc etc.
    Erase all the boundaries from the map and start fresh, maybe with Rand McNally “Major Trading Areas”, (I think there are around 50) and you’d have much more sensible political conversation.
    Yes, not practical.

  10. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang, Myrna Loy is definitely way before my time. The Blandings movie was made in 1948.
    And while we are talking Thespian analogies, my take is that we are watching the equivalent of the musical version of “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.” (1961).
    J. Pierrepont Finch is played by John McCain and Rosemary Pilkington played by Sarah Palin. And of course they are following the manual – “The Company Way” – at the World Wide Wicket Company.
    As I am afraid I have demonstrated so many times, I am concerned at the general American assumption that you can continue a rerun of such a wonderful light hearted musical every four years.
    I note that today a BBC poll has suggested that “The World” (or the BBC’s version of the world (tm.)) wants Obama. Globalisation has meant that their are now an infinity of links between different countries. Our pension funds and banks have taken a hit thanks to this Administrations financial regulation of Wall Street. Our special forces are getting shot up in Afghanistan, our interest in your elections is therefore not just vicarious.
    On a personal note, my own personal struggle over understanding what is going on and what the outcome might be in this matter is compounded by my decision (perhaps rash) some years ago to reclaim American citizenship. My Mom is American, and of great age, and an Army brat, and she told me yesterday she thinks Sarah Palin is a jackass.

  11. JohnH says:

    It’s all sizzle. I remember John Thune running for the Senate against Daschle. All he would say was that, if he were elecvted, the Republicans were “going to get things done.” No specifics.
    Now Palin and McCain are going to shake up Washington. No specifics, of course.
    They can’t get specific because people would be horrified if they knew what their agenda is.
    So just sell them the Wham, the pig in a poke.

  12. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Some kosher McCain wham:
    “Haifa, Israel — As the American presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain heads into its final stretch, a group of leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel is preparing to release a statement that urges the country’s American expatriates to exercise their voting rights in November by casting absentee ballots…..
    “Every vote cast from Eretz Yisrael comes from someone concerned for the safety and security of people living there, and this will be understood in Washington,” Kalish told the Forward. Aaron Spetner, a Jerusalem-based Agudath Israel activist who is heading the campaign, added that “if thousands of voter registration forms are coming in from Israel, it makes us powerful in Washington — with the president, senators and congressmen.”
    “There are an estimated 200,000 Americans living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Only 35,000 are currently registered to vote.”
    “Baskin said that regardless of whether or not there is explicit rabbinic endorsement for McCain, Israel is an obvious recruiting ground for McCain supporters. “American Jews are by majority behind Obama,” Baskin said. “Ask most Israelis who they would vote for if they could, and a majority will say McCain. Now, among American Israelis, who tend to be more right-wing and more religious — especially those targeted in this campaign — McCain will fare particularly well.”
    “The same as happens in [elections in] this country, we will vote for whoever the rabbis say is better,” she told the Forward.”

  13. J says:

    what is a bit ‘intriguing’ is the way that some former ‘very staunch’ hillary supporters are now so full of anger at obama that they are so blinded by their anger they refuse to see mccain and palin (in particular) for their, shall-we-say ‘frailties’. such blindness sometimes is not such a good thing.

  14. Bobo says:

    What a country we live in and what a time. We are seeing a Brand being made while the Fourth Estate is tossing everything including the banana peels at the Brand, to see what sticks. So far the teflon is holding up.
    We all know what happens with Brands, they go stale. So it will be very interesting to see the Re-Branding in a few months of all the participants.
    Not saying any of this is productive or beneficial for our country but making —– sausage has always been messy.
    The Blandings is very appropo.

  15. pbrownlee says:

    Ah, the wisdom of the clowns…
    My recollection of the magic slogan (or, at least, the version I’ve been quoting for years) in MBBHDH is “If you ain’t eatin’ WHAM, you ain’t eatin’ ham”.
    Another much cherished movie is “The Senator was Indiscreet” with the immortal Bill Powell as a bird-brained senator (and former road painter) whose wife wants him to be President and he’s willing to go along. Lots of stuff on “publicity” and stunts and some wonderful lines:
    “If you can’t beat ’em, bribe ’em!”
    (On a signboard) “Tonight: Senator Melvin Ashton: Whither America? Tomorrow: Dog Show”
    “Not inflation, not deflation, but good old American flation.”
    “You can’t go around quoting politicians accurately; that’s dirty journalism, and you know it!”
    Useful in an election (or any other) year…

  16. Cato @ 9/9, 1:40 pm:
    Your daughter must be at that age (mid-teens) where she knows more than she will ever again in her life. There’s hope. She may get over it. At least my two did, thankfully.

  17. Buzz G says:

    So who is right, Leo Strauss or Thomas Jefferson?
    Does the common man have the intelligence and desire to govern himself or does the common man prefer to live in ignorance and actually desire to let someone else control his life as long as the controllers tell him pleasant lies that make him feel good about himself?
    I’m having a hard time siding with Jefferson but I also doubt that if he were alive today he would be trying to make the case that the common American as he now exists is actually capable of self government.
    Buzz G

  18. Marcus says:

    “Why can’t the “Republic Party” that does such a good job in selling Wham! actually do even half as good a job in running the “enterprise” after they get the CEO job?”
    If the “enterprise” is a kleptocracy they are doing a superb job. Private profits for cronies and socialized losses for the (suckers)taxpayers.
    What the plutocrats don’t seem to care about is the long-term health of the golden goose (consumers)and the neo-cons wet dream of world domination, after all “spreadin democracy” takes capital, which increasingly they’ve transfered to unfriendly regimes.

  19. David W. says:

    Good timing–just prior to surfing over to SST, I read this article:
    McCain-Palin ’08 virtually using the same script as Schwarzenegger ’03
    Well, as the old saw goes, Bush promised in 2000 he would run the govt. like a business; too bad the business he had in mind was Enron.

  20. EL says:

    “The American peple are being sold a lot of “Wham.” They seem to like it. pl” pl, you’re being too much the officer and the gentleman again. I think they more than “like” they love it,,,,devour it by the Alaskan ton. Lick their lips and drool in ecstasy.

  21. Paul says:

    A lot of decent moderate Republicans have been fooled by Bush. Many of them are students of good governance and they know that government, at any level, is complicated and not subject to change by slogans and baloney. For the moment, they are just watching and waiting.
    The selecting of Palin, while appealing to the extreme, is their worst nightmare. Witness her “shoot from the hip” record in Alaska. I cannot imagine her on an international stage.
    It took us 30 years to get to this abyss, and it will take as long climb out of it.

  22. jonst says:

    Myrna Loy was before the Col’s time. In the chronological sense. Her attraction is, or I hope, will always be, classic. i.e. Loy will remain timeless.
    Now me, as much as I loved Loy as an actress, and archetype, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Ann Sheridan. Lesser known…but what a beauty. And a bit of tough edge to her.
    As to America breaking up…Kennan ruminated on it in “Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy”. Saw two conflicting dynamics….increased diversity in sections of the US, increased power of Washington over the smallest details in life. Eventually, as he put it, something has to give.
    I don’t have much hope anymore. While I normally resist the intrusion of Alcoholics Anonymous speak into my discourse…in this case one of their cliches seems to work for me. The Nation will have to hit bottom before real change is possible. We are no where near “bottom” now. And even when we do hit bottom, as we will, change is only “possible”. Not probable.

  23. Twit says:

    Amen, but I think the size of the US is fine. Its the centralization and homogenization that is the problem. The US was better when going to a different state was like going to a different country. Federalism is the natural ally of individualism and the natural enemy of ‘corporate’ politics.
    Didn’t Thomas Jefferson say something about centralization of the Republic leading to despotism at home and empire abroad? Does anyone know the exact quote?
    It really shows that only someone as politically marginal as Ron Paul is able to explicitly talk about the Constitution, limited government, and individual rights. Why didn’t Obama go after his supporters? His policies may be crazy, but there is a reason Ron Paul’s book is a bestseller.

  24. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    And standing in the Democratic mirror is….
    A political scientist. David Axlerod. And from Chicago no less. Here’s Wikipedia: “Axelrod attended the University of Chicago, where he majored in political science.”
    Not a reassuring view, especially when you take into account the interpretation of “political science” rendered at SST. In fact, when it comes to winning an “insurgency campaign” or whatever you want to call it, I cannot imagine a worse combination than the “University of Chicago” and “Political Science” (again relying on the insights provided in earlier threads and nothing more).
    After the Palin debacle, in which Democrats, at least initially, struck out at another culture, it looks like political scientists not only constitute the heart of the Democratic party but also determine its overall strategy. If so, then it is all but certain that Democratic strategists do not have the wherewithal to cross examine McCain effectively.
    To word differently, if Democrats try to undermine McCain or reveal his “personality” based upon the methodology of political science, then Democrats will get their clocks cleaned.
    Republican strategists may very well know this aspect of team Obama. The underlying sophistication of the McCain acceptance speech reveals how they think the Democrats will attack him. The sub textual message was very well thought out.
    The Democrats can still win. But the values of “anthropology” as described at SST give Democrats a better path to follow than those of political science. One of the better examples of the approach offered by anthropology was that given to us by Martin Buber who taught anthropology at Hebrew University.
    Axelrod a follower of Buber? Highly unlikely. Of course, neither are the Republican strategists. So on that score, if a Republican and Democrat stand before a mirror, they look one and the same. They both reflect a desire to use an imperial executive branch to enlighten other cultures by destroying them.

  25. Twit says:

    I agree with you. Maybe then, god forbid, a McCain victory would actually be better for the country in the long term. This would surely represent rock bottom, making way for the **possibility** of change (i.e. a Democratic party humiliated into accepting actual change-makers like Mark Warner and Jim Webb into the mainstream).
    My big fear with Obama is that he will do what Tony Blair did to Britain. Thatcher destroyed many central institutions of British life (unions, and that economically inefficient but socially cohesive British attitude, et al) for the sake of progress, just as Bush has destroyed our institutions for the sake of security. Obama will be faced with either the daunting task of fixing what Bush has broken, or ‘rebranding’ the destructive policies to make them palatable. Blair did the latter, and British society is permanently worse for it. I fear Obama will make a similar choice when confronted with the depths of our problems.
    Anyway, I think this election is a big gamble either way.

  26. John Moore says:

    People have to remember that corporations are generally run as authoritarian organizations. Dissent is often frowned upon, if not crushed. The CEO is an autocrat, if not The Leader. Ask the Swiss bankers how good the Nazis were at conducting “business” with confiscated Jewish property and assets. Would we want a President to be “The Leader” – “der Furher” of the American Fatherland. This is why I never liked the name “Homeland” Security.

  27. LarryM says:

    It’s amazing though, isn’t it? I thought I was pretty cynical – certainly more cynical than 90% of my fellow citezens. Yet every day, my prior self seems gullible and naive.
    What’s happening now is this: prior to 2000, as toxic as things were, there were things that were simply beyond the pale, in terms of abuses of presidential power and campaigning. It’s not that the worst of our politicians had any moral compunctions about certain abuses and campaign tactics, but they figured that they couldn’t get away with them.
    Then, the Bush administration, combined (in addition to it’s other sins) abuses of executive power that make Nixon look like a choir boy with the worst kind of dirty, fear mongering politics. And .. they got away with it. Prospered, even.
    McCain specifically, and his team generally, learned from this. And they are running the most disgusting , lie packed, campaign in my lifetime at least. I mean, look at the Willy Horton ad and the outrage it sparked. That concern seems almost quaint now; we see much worse from the sewer of the McCain campaign every day. At least that was fact based.
    And now I’m going to go one step further than most people here. Ultimately, the fact that this stuff seems to WORK is an indictment of the American people. Ultimately the U.S. is goign to reap the whirlwind. And we will deserve it.
    I fear that the only choice for the Dems now is to descend into the gutter with the Republicans. I don’t like it, in the abstract, but the stakes are so high that there is no real choice.

  28. Camille Paglia, a revisionist feminist, has posted an interesting article about Palin and feminism in Slate. If accurate, it might explain the 10 point switch in white women’s possible November vote to McCain that has given such a lift to the Republicans. What is very very important now is to avoid posturing and as always the “devil is in the details.” This is one of many reasons why the Republicans fail at governing. McCain is not Mr. Detail as a Senator but a broad strokes guy. Palin appears the same. I think Obama is the same while Biden is more detailed oriented but often misses the forest for the trees. Bottom line distress that the US system of Presidential selection has tossed up this menagiere. I still will vote for Obama and Biden but not hopeful as to their performance in office. Just cannot see voting for a person who was thrilled to fly jets. Or hunt Moose. By the way how many did she actually kill and have officially checked? Or was it like most Alaskans just to fill the freezer and to hell with reporting. I guess their is indignation and then as the Bible states “Rightous Indignation.” Right now I am the latter about the election.

  29. frank durkee says:

    We are a capitalist country, and capitalism is about “winning”, and doing what is necessary to “win”.
    One of the aids to winning is knowing how to break the rules and make that the “new” rule. Bush led the way not only in his campaigns but also in his public statements. spin , and at time out right lying. McCain’s run is based on emotion and “semiotics”, synbols, images without specific content His aim is to destroy Obama and elevate himself. It may be despicable but it so far is effective as Bush demonstrated in ’04

  30. jonst says:

    Your concerns have merit. I have the same concerns regards Obama/Blair. But it is still no gamble to me. McCain is showing, daily, he is a dangerous, arrogant, fool. I question his emotional stability. And I deeply distrust his wife, and the people around her. See how the family fortune was made.
    So, no matter what my doubts, it is an easy call. But I am not optimistic anymore.
    In any event…here is what I think is an excellent article on the Campaign. And it goes to the ‘branding’ aspect of this thread.

  31. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Palin’s wham is not ground moose burger.
    It is “of the spirit.” For some further data on Palin and her “spiritual” wham:
    “Sarah Palin’s churches are actively involved in a resurgent movement that was declared heretical by the Assemblies of God in 1949. This is the same ‘Spiritual Warfare’ movement that was featured in the award winning movie, “Jesus Camp,” which showed young children being trained to do battle for the Lord. At least three of four of Palin’s churches are involved with major organizations and leaders of this movement, which is referred to as The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit or the New Apostolic Reformation. The movement is training a young “Joel’s Army” to take dominion over the United States and the world.”….
    ” The Wasilla Assembly of God church is deeply involved with both Third Wave activities and theology. Their Master’s Commission program is part of an three year post-high school international training program with studies in prophecy, intercessory prayer, Biblical exegesis, authority and leadership. The pastor, Ed Kalnins, and Masters Commission students have traveled to South Carolina to participate in a “prophetic conference” at Morningstar Ministries, one of the major ministries of the Third Wave movement. Becky Fischer was a pastor at Morningstar prior to being featured in the movie “Jesus Camp.” The head of prophecy at Morningstar, Steve Thompson, is currently scheduled to do a prophecy seminar at the Wasilla Assembly of God. Other major leaders in the movement have also traveled to Wasilla to visit and speak at the church.
    The Third Wave is a revival of the theology of the Latter Rain tent revivals of the 1950s and 1960s led by William Branham and others. It is based on the idea that in the end times there will be an outpouring of supernatural powers on a group of Christians that will take authority over the existing church and the world. The believing Christians of the world will be reorganized under the Fivefold Ministry and the church restructured under the authority of Prophets and Apostles and others anointed by God. The young generation will form “Joel’s Army” to rise up and battle evil and retake the earth for God.”
    and so on,
    On the Latter Rain Movement see Wiki:
    Just wait until she is VP… one can imagine who will be surrounding Palin in the VP’s office.

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