There’s a rule in advertising that clients love to remind ad agencies of. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Then there’s that other rule that agency gurus mutter when they’re blamed because sales don’t increase. “Good advertising can only make a bad product fail faster.”
You can spend tons of money, backed up by good creative, advertising “New Coke.” But if it tastes worse than “Old Coke,” well then, you get the picture. But you won’t get the New Coke. And the ad agency will get fired.
Why am I writing about empty promises that result in failure? This post from Lance Mannion. Besides his really funny line, “More Republican limbo dancing. How low can they go? How low can they go?” There was this from Digby, quoting from Slate’s Timothy Noah:
“The fact is that the GOP doesn't have an agenda. It has impulses: to cut taxes, to increase Pentagon spending, and to mollify the Christian right wherever possible. Does it act on these impulses? Of course. But what mostly gives the party appeal to the electorate is its ability to scream and yell while seldom being granted the opportunity to ban abortion or eliminate the Securities and Exchange Commission or declare war on France. It stirs things up satisfyingly, while never requiring anybody to pay the price.”
The GOP has been selling the sizzle for more than 40 years. And while branding their own party, they’ve worked even harder to brand the competition. Which has been really successful, but dishonest. Dishonesty in advertising? I know you are all shocked!
They’ve been most successful branding the word “liberal.” Anyone or anything they disagree with is “liberal.”
If you’ve ever started a sentence with, “Yeah, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but....” You’re a liberal. Don’t like the idea of sending our soldiers to war, at a time of our choosing, without the appropriate amount of armor? You’re a liberal. Think the photos from Abu Graib revealed more than just a fraternity hazing? You’re a liberal. Think people deserve a living wage? You’re a liberal. Think our health care system is out of control? You’re a liberal.
Which begs the question. Why do conservative pundits, knowing Bush is getting nowhere with his social security pitch, insist to us that he’s brave just for bringing it up? But when Clinton tried to tackle our health care system, these same pundits could be heard screaming, “I’d rather be dead than red!”
You still watch the network news? You’re a liberal. You like to watch some of the raunchy shows on TV? You’re a liberal. Unless you’re a conservative. Then you love South Park because sometimes they make fun of liberals. (Forget the episode where the Devil and Jesus beat each other up with sex toys. They also trashed a liberal in the same episode.)
Never mind that we are trying to help an extremely conservative, ultra-religious region of the world become a liberal democracy.
Another GOP branding strategy has been their cry for smaller government. And this was a simple strategy. They just started saying the opposite of what liberals believed. No wishy-washiness there. They don’t like to be accused of parsing language. It’s all black and white. Which they’ve parsed into their language to back up their strategies.
There was lots of sizzle to the “smaller government” strategy because the GOP could promise tax cuts. But once again the sizzling is fizzling. According to Jeffrey Sachs, Bush supported expenditure increases for popular items like education and prescription drug benefits but paid for these services by borrowing the money rather than ensuring sufficient tax revenues.”
Sach’s continues, “The problem is that Bush's reckless gamble has now built up considerable political momentum. As soon as he was re-elected, Bush started to propose cuts in popular government programs, but his own party is rejecting those cuts.”
Why are members of his own party, the party of smaller government rejecting spending cuts for popular programs? Because they want to get re-elected! Even the voters of Republican candidates want something done for them by their government! It’s odd that Republican operators never considered this little detail when reciting their smaller government mantra over the years. They probably just thought, “we’ll deal with it when it happens.”
Problem is, it’s happening. And they can’t deal with it. And, according to all the polls, neither can the majority of Americans.
The latest sizzle they’ve sunk their teeth into is the “moral values” issue. In a time where it seems all of us have little control, there’s always that ugly side of human nature, that they can take advantage of by the way, that allows us to believe that we can control the personal behavior of others. But even this empty strategy doesn’t hold water, considering how Bush backed away from the religious right in his speech last night, based on the backlash from the Terri Schiavo fiasco and Bill Frist participating in a campaign to smear Democrats as being against “people of faith.”
What rallied Americans to re-elect Bush by a small margin was fear. The GOP has lost sight of the fact that they were re-elected because they convinced a majority that Osama Bin Laden wanted Kerry to be president more than Bush. Remember when Cheney cautioned us about how a Kerry presidency would invite nuclear armageddon to our cities?
Has the terror warning been raised since November 2nd? Afraid not.
If the response to Bush’s social security initiative and energy plan remains low and gas prices remain high, while people keep losing their jobs and the health care system keeps spiraling out of control, they might well indeed pull out the big guns again. We better prepare for what Jim Jeffords predicted last month. And that is the U.S. invasion of Iran to help set up the next Republican presidential candidate.
But, that strategy might fail this time as well, knowing that the invasion of Iraq was based on lies and deceit. Which has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. This time, like New Coke, hearing nothing but empty promises, the majority of Americans may not buy it.