Barack Branding 101

I remember reading where certain brand-name companies who sell their products in grocery stores often will put the word “NEW!” on their packaging to get a boost in sales. The actual change in the product itself could be nothing more than adding four milligrams more of riboflavin. But that doesn’t matter to the consumer. Apparently just seeing that magic word is enough to persuade a shopper to throw the item in their buggy without even checking to see just what is ‘new’ about it.

That being said, I have long been mystified at the ease with which starry-eyed Obama supporters are willing to stock up on his special brand of Kool-Aid. Granted their candidate has some exciting qualities — he’s young, he’s hip, he has a great stage presence and he speaks with authority. But as Thomas Sowell so eloquently points out, he is still short on that important little ingredient called substance.

In an election campaign in which not only young liberals, but also some people who are neither young nor liberals, seem absolutely mesmerized by the skilled rhetoric of Barack Obama, facts have receded even further into the background than usual.

As the hypnotic mantra of “change” is repeated endlessly, few people even raise the question of whether what few specifics we hear represent any real change, much less a change for the better.

Certainly it’s a brilliant stroke of marketing on Obama’s part. But what about this “Change!” that is stamped all over Barry’s packaging? A look at the few specifics he has provided on the economic front shows us that nothing new is being proposed at all —  just the same old ‘New Deal’ politics presented  in a fresh shiny charismatic package.  As Sowell points out:

Raising taxes, increasing government spending and demonizing business? That is straight out of the New Deal of the 1930s.

The New Deal was new then but it is not new now. Moreover, increasing numbers of economists and historians have concluded that New Deal policies are what prolonged the Great Depression.

Putting new restrictions of international trade, in order to save American jobs? That was done by Herbert Hoover, when he signed the Hawley-Smoot tariff when the unemployment rate was 9 percent. The next year the unemployment rate was 16 percent and, before the Great Depression was over, unemployment hit 25 percent.

So the ideas are actually quite old. But they are part of a populist strategy that will appeal to the average voter who is unsatisfied with his or her life and wants something or someone to blame.

Sowell then goes on to examine the mindset that is catching on at an alarming pace in this country — the idea that Washington is here to make our lives better:

One of the most naive notions is that politicians are trying to solve the country’s problems, just because they say so– or say so loudly or inspiringly.

Politicians’ top priority is to solve their own problem, which is how to get elected and then re-elected. Barack Obama is a politician through and through, even though pretending that he is not is his special strategy to get elected.

And he is certainly very good at pretending he is not. A few short months ago he even had yours truly fooled. Although I knew he was a liberal and would never have voted for him on that fact alone, I was impressed by what appeared at the time to be a certain amount of integrity. Unlike Hillary, he didn’t give off that phony air of trying to be everything to everyone. And what most struck me at the time was that he seemed to be taking the high-road on race. It was, to say the least, refreshing.

But after the Jeremiah Wright revelation broke, I soon began to realize that Obama’s real strategy is to let others speak for him on the more controversial issues while he stands around looking and sounding presidential. If a firestorm erupted… as it already has a time or two… he could always distance himself without getting his own empty suit singed.

Yes people will call him on these tactics and yes he will look bad a time or two… or twelve. But ultimately what will matter to Democratic and centrist voters is his presence and his ability to look leader-like. That combined with the repetition of carefully chosen buzzwords like “change” and “hope” will likely be all he needs to win this election. McCain, as I have often said, is Bob Dole redux. Nothing about him says ‘new’ and I just don’t see him getting in the Oval Office when so many Americans are wanting newness for newness’ sake.

Those are the sad facts, folks. Maybe by 2012 the spiked Kool-Aid will have worn off and Americans will be ready for the real, bonifide “get government the hell out of our lives” kind of change. Until then, buckle your seatbelts…

Click below for the rest of Sowell’s excellent (as usual) column:

Are Facts Obsolete?


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