Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin Pandering Pops McCain Bubble

While I realize that it's not the panacea to the world's problems, as our society becomes increasingly saturated by media, it really is true. Life is a branding problem. And nowhere can you find better proof of that than in the American presidential elections. In the latter part of the twentieth century, strong presidents (Reagan) developed strong, clear brand strategies that connected with the American public. In the first elections of the twenty first century, it was the lack of brand strategy that confused the American public.

The election of 2008 is subject to the same effects. In this case, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama has a clear brand message. But with the revelation that John McCain has chosen Alaska governor Sarah Pain as his vice presidential running mate, it would seem evident that the race is now over.

Your new president is Mr. Obama. And here's why:

While neither candidate has a clearly stated brand message, only one candidate has a strong brand message. That would be Mr. Obama. For as I've written here, while there isn't an Obama fan within a hundred miles that can articulate any of Obama's policies, Obama has succeeded in motivating an uneducated -- and seemingly undemanding -- public into action. In branding terms, Obama is the Nike of politics: "Just do it" sounds as if it means something, but when you think about it, nobody has any idea what it means. So it is with Obama. But there's a big difference in the political branding space:

Where Obama surpasses McCain is that Obama's marketing efforts are pro-active, while McCain's efforts are decidedly reactive. And for smoking gun evidence, you need look no further than McCain's surprise choice of Palin as his running mate.

You can say what you want about Obama's vague chants of change, but McCain's choice of Palin is clearly the result of pollsters' panderings to the public, hoping to attract the Hillary Clinton supporters who -- in McCain's dreams -- would rather vote for a Republican woman than a Democrat man.

Okay, a Democrat black man. There. I said it.

But McCain's advisors are wrong here. Big time. In the first place, Palin is no Hillary. In the second, if you had any doubts about Obama's experience, you ain't seen nothing yet. Palin, at 44, has little experience outside her home state. Third, Palin is a confirmed pro life/anti-abortionist. Need I go on? To paraphrase the Florida Senator, "She's no Joe Biden." She's more like a Dan Quayle. In a debate, that will become a public disaster.

What McCain's team has completely missed is the fact that the American public is probably more than a little tired of the right-leaning agenda of the past two administrations. While remaining non-specific, Obama has succeeded in pulling back the curtain on the Bush administration, exposing it as a cavalcade of failures. The current economic slump doesn't hurt him, either.

In the end, McCain's foolish attempt to pander is what kills all brands. It reflects an inability to lead, an abdication of authority by playing to the crowd instead of inspiring the crowd. As Abraham Lincoln so aptly said, "You can fool some of the people some of the time." It's just that this ain't one of those times.


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