Playing The Image To Win
A couple of my Orange County (CA) Republican coworkers were discussing Bill O'Reilly's new book the other day, one declaring that it's one of his best yet. The other said, "Yeah, but I don't get to discuss it much. All I get is that partisan crap about how everything is Bush's fault, even things he had no control over."
That got me to thinking. I posed the question (to myself), "Why, in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, does anyone still support George Warmonger Bush?"
I was discussing with another co-worker the value of foreign news sources over domestic one, saying at one point that about all you get from the local news is car chases and fires. "Yeah, but it looks so cool!" was his response.
That's when it hit me - it's all Jim Henson's fault.
Jim Henson's Muppets were a large part of the educational experience of anyone born in 1968 or later. His Sesame Street series was very successful in reaching kids who otherwise might not have learned as much. And therein lies the problem.
The major element used by Sesame Street to keep kids' attention long enough to teach them something involved being very entertaining. It's my contention that kids today expect to be entertained, and are thus not prepared to learn any other way, assuming they learn at all.
Teachers I've talked to tell me that it gets frustrating trying to keep kids focussed on their lessons when they would much rather be watching TV or playing one of the myriad of electronic games available to them. And with some now carrying cell phones with text messaging capabilities and two-way communication, it's only getting harder.
So what does this have to do with George Warmonger Bush? Stay tuned!
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan won the presidency, no doubt in part to the poor performance of Jimmy Carter in that role. Reagan, being an actor, was certainly entertaining to watch, and it was his actor's delivery, and not the content of his speeches, that earned him the title "Great Communicator". My memory may be faulty, but I don't recall many comedian caricaturing Reagan's speaking style like they did his erstwhile VP and his lame tag line "Wouldn't be prudent!"
But while president, Reagan began pressuring the schools to alter their curricula to ones more acceptible to the Right. Kids who were schooled during those years suffer a critical lack of logical reasoning skills. Even symbolism wasn't safe from assault, as James Watt managed to 'convince' PBS to reverse the direction of their logo 'P' so that the face would look to the right instead of the left.
Bill Clinton is masterful when on stage, so to speak, and Ross Perot's down home style of Plain Talkin' was certainly a large part of his appeal to the American People.
Coming up - how this applies to George Warmonger Bush. And now a word from our sponsor.
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The Election of 2000 will, like the Election of 1800, be a watershed in American political history and a favorite debating topic for historians who follow it. But unlike the Election of 1800, the Election of 2000 was a creation of the media and not political thought. One of the factors that historians will likely debate will be the influence the media images of the candidates had upon the selection people made in their support.
We've all seen and heard comments by people who say that Bush is someone they'd like to have a beer with, that he's 'just like them'. Certainly, the media coverage of his campaign had much to do with this public perception. They focussed more on Bush the man than on Bush's policies, and many people will only size someone up by what they see. Anything anyone were to say about this someone would have far less value in the evaluation of acceptance and worthiness than one's own visual perception.
Next - the role public image plays in the popular opinion of the pResident. And now a message from our sponsor.
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As a comedian once asked in a skit, "Who you gonna believe - me or your lyin' eyes?" People today seem to prefer believing their lying eyes over anything that requires cogitation demonstrating that their decision-computational data matrix might possibly contain a large proportion of erroneous information, since it's more simple to fall back on what seems obvious over that which must be examined. It's quicker. Takes less time away from the NASCAR race coverage.
There has yet to be a simple, easy to remember phrase that captures the essence of why George Warmonger Bush is bad for America, at least one that resonates with his current support base. There is no "Read my lips!" statement, nor any "It's the economy, stupid!" "Bush lied!" isn't going to play until enough American families understand that their lost loved ones were sacrificed due to untruth. "Bush knew!" won't fly as long as people are susceptible to terror alerts.
Even the fact that Bush is a bumbler, as demonstrated so clearly during his last 'press conference', isn't of much concern to those who support Bush. They give him the benefit of the doubt that they never gave Clinton. They believe Bush to be one of them. They can put themselves in Bush's shoes and see themselves doing all the same things Bush has done, and most likely would use the same reasoning as Bush. Of course, they AREN'T in Bush's shoes, and who can say how well they would do without Bush's recent history to draw upon for inspiration.
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Looking back at the losing candidates since 1980, those who don't 'play to the audience' lose - period. Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, H. W. Bush, Dole, Gore - just try to visualize them on TV. Other than Bob Dole's famous dry wit, there is little to recommend them as entertainers. Reagan, H. W. Bush (compared to Dukakis???? No fair comparison possible!), Clinton, Dumbya Bush - all very visual, very animated, very personable. All very approachable (Secret Service not withstanding). All very acceptable as candidates to the American people, hence their victorious electoral outcomes.
How are the candidate images going to affect the Election of 2004? We'll show you what one Web pundit says right after this.
How are the candidate images going to affect the Election of 2004? Here's what one Web pundit has to say:
Right now, this election looks like it will have two candidates who have the right public persona. We've already seen much of Bush's image. What of the image of John F. Kerry?
In this category, Kerry is helping himself a lot. He's somewhat personable, and he seems to be someone approachable. Photos and video of him skiing and playing hockey show a man healthy and active enough to do more than just clear brush and wave small chain saws about. Kerry is showing that he knows how to play (remember the Kennedy touch football games?), something Bush has yet to demonstrate. "But Bush jogs!" you protest. Jogging has become such a presidential cliche that it doesn't carry much weight with the public anymore. There is little positive benefit to be gained by showing yourself jogging on TV to an audience that just might not be able to see their toes anymore.
But the more physically active sports still resonate with the public, or else they are wasting a whole lot of their time watching professional teams. Skiing and hockey are both popular winter sports, and if Kerry shows some kind of spring/summer sporting then he will gain a very slight edge overall. The effect is so slight that I'd be surprised if the pollsters could even measure it. But with some, especially those who would believe their lyin' eyes over everything evidentiary to the contrary, it will have a positive effect. Thus it makes it more likely (while not definitively demonstrable) that Kerry would have a more positive image and a few more votes just by playing sports during his off time.
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It's All Up To You!
And now the conclusion of our program
Nowhere above am I trying to say the John F. Kerry is going to have it easy. He won't. The support for Bush is strong and well-regimented. He has access to lots of cash. Kerry has to overcome all of these, and playing sports and being entertaining isn't going to offset this much. But in such a crucial time, every advantage has to be exploited. Personality is going to play a big role in this year's election, more so than the issues. This is no way to run a country, but one must face facts if one is to win. John F. Kerry has all the right cards to play - he just has to play them well. He has a personality, he just needs to show more of it. He has brains, he needs to not overwhelm people with them. He can think on his feet, but he can't lose those who can't when he does.
Considering all of the Bush advantages, it's his election to lose. But with Bush so off-balance over Iraq and 9/11, and with more damaging information to come, it's Kerry's election to win.