Has a bumper sticker ever changed anyone’s mind about an election? Seriously, I cannot imagine someone driving down the road and spotting a bumper sticker for a candidate on the car ahead of him and saying, “Hey, if he’s good enough for the owner of that Honda Accord, he has my vote.”
How about those tacky signs people have on their lawns? How about a flyer handed to you while you were waiting for the train?
I’m hoping the answer to that is no. To answer yes means that you believe one of these devices actually contains enough relevant information on which to base a decision and that that information is truthful and unbiased. Frankly, if the answer is yes, you’re probably too ass-witted to vote. Hell, you’re probably too ass-witted to live.
I ask this question because I recently returned from a trip to Portland, OR (a truly delightful city) on a day when both Bush and Kerry were in the area campaigning. Now, Portland being Portland, there were no Bush supporters to be seen. But there were loads of stupid hippies pushing John Kerry propaganda on every street corner.
Before you take offense, let me point out that I refer to political activists of all stripes as stupid hippies. If I get a piece of pre-sorted bulk mail from the RNC I throw it away unread and mutter, “Stupid hippies.” If I walk into a bar and Bill O’Reilly is on the TV I ask the bartender to “turn off that stupid hippy.” It’s just a manner of speech I’ve developed.
So, really, what were these stupid hippies in Portland trying to accomplish. Were they handing me flyers because they thought I was ass-witted enough that it might alter my vote? If so, I should have given them a right and proper pimp-slapping.
Near as I can tell, the rationale behind this sort of thing is that Name Recognition is of paramount importance. Kind of like branding in the corporate world. If you swim in a sea of “Bush/Cheney” in a similar font and color scheme, the Karl Rove mind control will take over when you step into the polling booth, and then who needs hanging chads.
You know, I bet the stupid hippies in Portland would be the first to decry how corporate pigs use advertising to control the lives of helpless consumers, and yet here they are targeting the ass-witted with a bit of mind control of their own.
But once again, I have to point out encouraging someone that ass-witted to vote should be a crime. Instead, just give them a friendly pat on the head and walk them gently over to the short bus.
In 1964 Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election, getting only 38% of the vote. In 1980 Ronald Reagan won with 51% and a more decisive 58% four years later. From that one can make two observations.
This is of historical importance since you can see that as people experienced all the glories of the fabled ’60s counter-culture, the mind-opening of Woodstock, the revelry of the sexual revolution of the ’70s, and the horrible soul-searching of Viet Nam and Watergate, on average they moved to the right. Apparently, peyote and lurid sex work to the benefit of Republicans. Near as I can tell, this insight is lost on everyone except Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
More importantly, since then we have had exactly one Democratic president, who was as fervently centrist as his lack of principles could make him, whose legacy features Free Trade and Welfare Reform, and who the public spanked with a Republican congress as soon as he raised taxes. It remains the case to this day the public, on average, is mildly right of center.
This leads to the inevitable conclusion that every piece of political propaganda since 1980 has not changed anyone’s mind. Or if it has, it has changed them in pretty much equal numbers. And this is not just the pamphleteers. It’s everybody. How many years of Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads? How many grave New York Times editorials? How much overwhelmingly snarky Michael Kinsley commentary? How many Molly Ivans books in the remainder bin? How many Arianna Huffington reinventions? How many polysyllabic words from Christopher Hitchens?
How much bandwidth burned up at Blogcritics.org?
The decades of endless PR. The volumes of ignorant analysis. The immeasurable quantity of wasted moral indignation. Entire forests leveled for direct mailings. And after all that, you end up right where you started. Congratulations on your great achievement, stupid hippies.