What are you buying this election season?

Campaign slogans evoke the simple advertising of companies and food chains.  In this example, who are we voting for?  Bernie Sanders or Colonel Sanders?

Campaign slogans evoke the simple advertising of companies and food chains. In this example, are we voting for Bernie Sanders or buying products from Colonel Sanders?

With exception to good old Uncle Bernie, current American politicians aren’t shy about their love of capitalism.  But we’ve reached a point where we voters are being treated as consumers, with the candidates projecting themselves as some life-saving product, equipped with catch phrases and satisfaction guarantees.  And we play the role of faithful and predictable consumers, prone to the new, the bold, and the flashy.  And just like Lay’s Chips that sell more air than product, the candidates hold potential but lack substance.  Welcome to the economization of politics.

The roots of this issue can be traced back to our love of simplicity and reassurance.  In a world of complexity, confusion, and fear, we want answers and solutions, no matter how outlandish or simple they may be.  You want to limit illegal immigration?  How about a foolproof border wall.  It doesn’t matter how it will be built or who will pay for it because it will get done, somehow.

Witty slogans coupled with consumerism only exacerbate this problem.  With the rise of the Internet, now we can buy Hillary cookie cutters and Carson coffee cups to remind us that political freedom is never free.  And by buying these products, we feed into the concept of brand awareness and become walking propaganda.  We begin to sell our president like we sell our fast food.  Would you like some tax cuts with your abolishment of the IRS?

And we hear it time and time again.  Just like any successful company advertises with a barrage of advertisements, commercials, and posters, candidates reach voters any way they can, from Ben Carson’s painful to listen to rap radio ad to “Make America Great” pop-ups whenever you browse the Internet.  Some call it persuasion by repetition.  I call it force-fed consumption.  By vying for our attention on a constant basis, politicians ingrain in us a subconscious message: it doesn’t matter what I’m proposing and how I will do it –all that matters is that you remember to buy it.  If we associate candidates with their mottos, then politicians become one-dimensional leaders, ones without depth and complexity.

The solution is to read past the label.  If we refuse to be seduced by simplicity then we force candidates to open up their playbook –to flesh out their proposals, to clearly articulate their policies, and to be open and frank with the American people.

At the end of the day, I don’t want Cap’n Carson cereal nor Colonel Bernie Sanders fried chicken.  I want a candidate, and more importantly, a president – someone who is more than a brand or a one-line slogan.


“KFC logo” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KFC_logo.svg#/media/File:KFC_logo.svg

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