US elections not about manifestoes

Editor, RE: “American elections: The voters’ will matters most” (The New Times, May 9).

Editor,

RE:American elections: The voters’ will matters most” (The New Times, May 9).

In the US these days—and perhaps from always before—the candidate with the biggest bucks at their service or one who can mobilize most marketing firepower, wins elections. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s manifesto, but how well their positions/policies are packaged (with the help of focus groups and other tools of the marketing/propaganda tricks) to appeal to the largest segment of the market even as other more negative market messages attempt to destroy the adversary’s political product.

Above all, principles have minimal to no role in this equation. American elections today, more than ever before, are really won mostly through the efforts of the adherents of Edward L. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and chief father of the focus group method to testing marketing messages and advertising strategies for company products and politicians. People need to understand that in today’s America, selling a politician to the electorate is no different from selling a Big Mac.

The idea is to apply the old advertising model, AIDA (attract the ‘attention’ or awareness of as large an audience as you can in a crowded and noisy political market; ‘interest’ them in wanting to listen to your message about your political product as opposed to that/those of your competitors; get enough of the audience to ‘desire’ political product because they view its features and attributes as the answer to their needs/issues; and then close the deal by convincing them to move from just agreeing with what they see as your policies/political platforms which they believe they share with you, to then individually and collectively take an active role in helping you get elected as that is the only way their issues stand a chance of being addressed as you would wish).

What most political candidates never tell these poor political ‘marks’ of course is that, once safely in office, you are going to act firstly, secondly, thirdly, and every other way on behalf of the special interests (usually financial and corporate, but I repeat myself) without whose money you would have had any chance of getting into that office.

Your donors, not your voters or even the true believers who acted as the foot soldiers in your campaign, really own you.

Mwene Kalinda

 

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