When you are building a brand, repetition matters. People need to hear something over and over, and in different contexts, before they fully internalize the information. In politics, as well, repetition matters. Politics is, after all, branding. So what brands have the different “producers” created over the past forty years or so?
Democrats/Liberals are pro-choice, pro-peace, pro-social welfare, pro-arts, pro-diversity, pro-science, pro-education, pro-negotiation, pro-labor, and pro-environment.
Democrats/Liberals are baby-killing, gun-hating, loafer-supporting, Hollywood worshipping, anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-self reliance, soft on defense, anti-corporation, and anti-human in the face of seals and spotted owls.
Republicans/Conservatives are pro-life, pro-business, pro-liberty, pro-individual, pro-morality, pro-American, pro-Christian, pro-private sector, pro-military, and pro people before nature.
Republicans/Conservatives are bigoted, misogynistic, chauvinist, gun-loving, warmongering, greedy, fascist polluters.
So much for party identification. One brand that a majority of Americans have bought into is the “Government is the problem” brand. What a shame. The miracle of America, the dream of America, the promise of America, and the challenge of America, was and is the notion that people can come together to govern themselves for the benefit of a common good. This very simple notion stood in stark contrast to the idea that was pervasive in humanity throughout recorded history; men needed to be governed by some power, whether religious or royalty.
A group of very brave people broke away from their colonial masters 230 years ago and proceeded to prove to the world that men did not need a king. They proved that governance could be shared through the mechanism of participatory democracy. They, and we, showed the way to the rest of the world. The effort took compromise then as well as now. The effort also took people who were willing to accept that all would not always go their way. This spirit is, I fear, a minority ideal.
We have adopted the “brand” is a tool for governance. We believe now that our brand must beat the others, Coke after all can’t join Pepsi for mutual benefit; why then would Republicans and Democrats do something as silly as that? We have drawn a line around “business’ and “the people” and insisted they be held separate. We have adopted the mentality of angry drivers screaming at traffic when we look at legislation. We have accepted that “the government” and “the people” are not the same thing.
There can not be another more Un-American notion than that; the miracle of America is that people vote in and define their own government. Naive, you say? No. Our government will never be perfect, as our business, sports, religion, relationships, and the rest will never be perfect. I have yet to see anyone at Fox News or MSNBC get out of a boat on a lake and walk on the water. You wouldn’t guess that from the way that news outlets act.
People can and do influence legislation. It is happening right now. A nearly unprecedented majority was elected to the House and Senate in the same party as the President last year. All of those sent to Washington went with a mandate from those who voted, a total that represents the largest percentage of living Americans to vote for a party and its candidates since Reagan and the GOP dominated in 1984. The mandate was clear, and it included four fundamental pillars; fix the greed in our financial system, fix our foreign policy and refocus our military on international terrorism, align our environmental efforts with the rest of the enlightened industrialized world, and fix our corrupt and ineffective health care system.
People have wanted the health care system fixed every year for decades now. There hasn’t been a month go by that I don’t hear of someone who is fighting with an insurance company for a drug, or a diagnostic procedure, or a surgery, or the right to go to a specialist. Up until about three months ago, three fourths of the country wanted a comprehensive health care reform law passed; the insurance companies and the drug industry even talked the talk of finding cost savings and helping government fix the problems.
Then the branding began; “death panels”, “granny killers”, “government-run health care”, “Marxism”, “the Founder’s intent”, and “Obama-care” became the slogans on people’s lips. Despite these slogans, a majority of Americans want reform, and more than 40% want a public option to provide competition to the insurance companies. Contrary then, to the majority’s wishes, nothing has been passed, and the bill about to come out of the Senate looks to be a windfall for insurance companies. It is every bit the disaster that opponents of health reform have claimed, but for the wrong reasons. The bill will mandate coverage and force the burden of lousy insurance company bureaucracy on everyone without competition. It will be a disaster because people, convinced by an insurance company ad campaign, have spoken to (and sometimes yelled at) their representatives. It is with humorless irony that I note those who have insisted that government doesn’t listen to the people are the very same who have made Senators…listen to some people.
Insurance companies and their allies have spent more than $380 million dollars fighting this concept this year alone. That is a total that describes an industry desperate to avoid losing its monopoly. That is a total that eclipses the number given to the financial sector during the first phase of the bailout. Think about that total in the context of how hard your parents had to fight to get the drugs their doctor prescribed them onto the formulary. Think about the total when you consider opening your own business but can’t because you can only afford coverage through your current employer. Think about that total the next time you think you are above the impulse of advertising geeks!
Government-imposed caps or floors on prices are counter-productive. Government-forced solutions to environmental issues are less likely to succeed than aggressive carrot and stick work with industrial groups and business people. There are areas that the people, acting through their government, would do well to leave alone, but we have recognized throughout our history that monopolies are bad for the nation. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican icon, was famous for “busting the trusts”.
Insurance companies act as a monopoly, and there is no market incentive to cover the entire U.S. market. Public health is a utility; without it, business does not operate and consumers do not have cash for growth. Add those two facts up, and the need for action is obvious. Do the math, think of your own experience with insurance companies, think about your costs going forward, and try to guess why an industry would spend almost half a billion….that’s BILLION with a B…fighting a bill that would help its customers.
Stamp the American brand back on the government, and remember that our corporation, The United States of America, is the one that matters. We are the sole owners and operators, and corporations big and small exist to serve their customers.
The rational middle is listening for your comments…