By Saul Landau
Pundits, professional interpreters of events, have awarded the Republicans with a “legislative landslide” in the House, and declared the Democrats “brutally defeated.” Backed by immense and well-organized corporate staffs and spinners (Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce and the billionaire Koch brothers for three), House Republican candidates were “swept into office.”
The campaign mavens treated voters as consumers who would respond to slogans and recognized brand names. The poor shop at chain markets where soup can and cereal box labels convey familiarity rather than buying less costly and higher quality products at Trader Joe’s (unknown brands). Tea Party Republicans “branded” standing for “taking our country back.” The good old days with baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet, and the highly intellectual trio: “You Will Fail! We Will Prevail! God Bless America!”
The “Drill HERE, Drill NOW” gang didn’t fare well in California. The packaging and labeling doctors offered voters two disgustingly rich women – Billionaire ex EBay chief Meg Whitman and multimillionaire ex Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – as “the people’s choices.” Fiorina wanted to spread Arizona’s nasty immigration law and outlaw abortion, not exactly perfect issues in a state where Latino and female votes win elections.
The rich chicks bought TV spots galore, but people associated them with unpleasant experiences. Whitman fired her undocumented “Nicky the Housekeeper.” Posing as a conscientious employer and preaching accountability, along with and boasting about her ability to create jobs, she showed California voters her real self.
“You don’t know me, and I don’t know you,” she told her faithful housekeeper of nine plus years, because Whitman “discovered” her “illegal status.” And, logically, because she stood against amnesty, Whitman would deport the young woman – not being a sports star she didn’t qualify as part of “we the people.”
Whitman’s ubiquitous TV ads – even during playoffs and World Series games -- which Jerry Brown adroitly used to ridicule her, used word for word the slogans of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, after plagiarizing the Governator, she opposed the very environmental law he backed, calling it, a “job killer.”
The public thus met an unmarketable new brand name and it (she) got rejected. Brown frugally relied on his old brand name (California Governor during prosperity) and won.
Outside of California and a few other states the Republicans “swept.” One insider told me even Monica Lewinsky voted Republican because “the Democrats left a bad taste in her mouth.”
The American voter, treated like a consumer, not a citizen, receives daily an average of 3,600 extraneous messages. The recipient of these radio, TV, internet and email, billboards, print, and phone communications learns he/she is the most important person in the world and should therefore dress better, have super sex, more or better hair, weigh less, pay less on the mortgage, firm up tummy or ass and drive a different car.
Political campaigns reflect this subliminal form using clichés and slogans to replace discussion of the difficult issues facing the nation and world. Few campaigns mentioned climate change, poor people or two wars in remote lands: denial by politicians facing urgent tasks. Typical campaign rhetoric emphasized less government spending, less taxes (the private sector will create jobs – and snails will run), and cleaning up Washington.
Dysfunctional? Elected officials cannot tell the truth. And blather nonsense about “we’re the greatest” because of our “exceptional” democracy, thanks to the “brave men and women fighting for our freedom” and God Bless America – or else!
Republican winners -- corporate interests -- wanted low taxes, little money for the poor, and kill the rag-heads. In the recent past such policies produced un-regulated corporate greed, E. coli outbreaks and ENRON disasters. It didn’t fund New Orleans levees before Katrina hit, but it did yield the Madoff escapade and events leading to real estate bubble bursting. Oh, and two disastrous wars for those with memory.
An AP poll of November voters showed 25% blamed Obama for causing the economic crisis. Without memory! The majority shook its collective head at the spin-doctors’ traditional electoral rap in non-traditional times. The majority -- “We the People” again -- didn’t vote. “We the People” means winner take all, but in the absence of a majority vote who should dominate Congress?
Start with nominations in primaries. Five percent of eligible voters in Delaware chose Republican Senate and Tea Partier Christine O’Donnell. Nevada’s Tea Party pick, Sharron Angle, won 4%. Twelve percent nominated Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson backed by ample funds for negative ads to beat Sen. Russ Feingold.
Nine point eight percent of the electorate voted in Republican primaries this year compared with the 8.2 % turnout for Democrats. Eighteen percent of eligible voters chose the candidates. This is “We the People?” (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43627.html#ixzz14cBM4Pop)
On November 2, 41% voted Republican or Democrat. Fifty-nine percent didn’t vote; the equivalent of voting for No One (former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Art Hoppe’s candidate). Therefore, the Constitution-minded should conclude that since No One captured the majority, No One should dominate Congress. With No One blocking him, we might see what Obama meant by “yes we can” and if “we” refers to the people.
Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow whose films are available through roudworldproductions.com.