Brand America Goes For Broke…Sort Of

So…this was originally supposed to be something about how Brand America/Monied Interests/PermaGov/The Man is, in 2008, finally grudgingly acknowledging certain global sociopolitical realities by conceding the nomination of a major American political party to a black man. About how said black man and his crew had been following in the footsteps of great political marketers and ad men of the past—specifically, the past of 1960 and 1980—in creating an indelible brand with which to sell themselves to the American consumer population. About how, after all, this is the American Way, and that’s just what we do here.

I had my shit all ready to go on this one, too—about how Barack Obama has consistently undercut his own soaring rhetoric with callous bouts of selling out like the stomping of FISA and the selection of Joe Biden (D-MBNA) as his veep. About how the whole shebang so far really hasn’t been that different from the marketing coups that Kennedy and Reagan pulled when they ran for President, and won. Yeah, I was ready, cause I’ve done some time in branding, folks, and it’s been glorious and commercial and manipulative and fun and creative and mendacious and successful and much, much more. So I’m a professional. Not an expert, but I have been paid to make ads. Many times, in many forms of media.

I was all prepared to expound on the JFK television masterstroke, when Jack fulfilled his rich daddy’s greatest dreams of transferrent projection by squeaking past a sitting Vice President into the cozy confines of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yeah, and you’d all dig it, too, cause don’t we all know the story about the 1960 debates? Sure we do—they’re legendary: it was televised for the first time ever, Kennedy looked like Virile Sexy American Male, and Dick Nixon raved and snarled like a vicious wino. Uh-huh, that’s it: capitalize on a new form of media, kiddies, and you too can be snorting cocaine off the White House pool’s diving board before frolicking half-naked with Marilyn Monroe like jackrabbits in heat. And everyone seemed to forget that JFK, as the Doctor said, “won by a margin so thin you couldn’t even see it.”

In a similar vein, I was also all set to jump on Ronald Reagan for the way he and his peeps legitimized glitz and glory again. What? Oh, well, yeah, the Kennedys had already done that, but don’t forget, in between JFK and Ronnie we had twenty years of brain-frying horror otherwise known as “the 1960s and 1970s,” which, if you didn’t live through it (and I only checked in for the last 4 years of those 20), read like a schizoid mess of manic polar episodes. Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, disco, punk, drugs, hair…and that of course wasn’t the half of it. Nixon, before he was “dragged from the White House in a frenzy of shame,” almost behaved like a deranged liberal when he signed the Clean Water/Clean Air acts. He even went to China! Hell, if he hadn’t killed all those Laotians, we’d have called him a Red. Jimmy Carter even had the stones to install solar panels on the White House. Jesus creeping shit, indeed.

But enough about those wankers; except for JFK, they had terrible marketing and they all—Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter—got blitzed before they could serve two full terms. Ronald Reagan blew them all away with his eight years of direct-mail senile dementia, but since he and his entourage were smart enough to swagger into Washington like conquering emperors when they decapitated Carter in 1980, they’re remembered as geniuses. The Reagan/Bush monstrosity knew that all they had to do to win was put a genial twit in front of the whole operation and dress him up like a cowboy, and let the guy say, in so many words, “Don’t you young whippersnappers worry a thing about that Vietnam and Watergate. Don’t let that baloney ever tarnish your pride in America, darn it, and by the by, please DO go out and buy every little thing you can get your red-blooded American hands on, kiddies, because if not, you’ll be Poor. And no one likes a Poor person, do they?”

And it worked, even through Star Wars and Iran-Contra and the Challenger and Chernobyl and apartheid and Gordon Gecko, because we all really loved not caring about anything but ourselves. It worked so well that the yellow-spined Vice President, George H. W. Bush, was able to ride Ronnie’s frayed coattails to victory in ’88, snapping the cycle of shame and loserdom that had plagued his office since 1836. Yeah, it worked even better than that, too—because even though Poppy was thrown out by 1992, and his replacement was nominally a Democrat, as we all now know, Bill Clinton eventually proved to be the best Republican president of our lifetimes, and not just because he got more nookie. Of course, our current President rode Ronnie’s shuck-and-yeehaw formula all the way to two of his own terms, but with such classless, clumsy incompetence that the Republican Party is now back to where it was in 1964: a squabbling nut-house of Dumb Brutes and Rich People, who are once again about to nominate a crusty old Arizona senator to bear their elephantine standard in November. And we can’t be presenting that face to the world much longer, can we? After a few stolen elections, PermaGov simply won’t stand for it, will they?

Which brings us back full circle to Barry, of course. No no, not that Barry, or the other Barry. This is a New Barry. The skinny one with the funny name. The anti-marketing marketing plan. The one who pulled the rug out from under Kerry’s convention in 2004. The one who put Howard Dean on a leash before stealing his fifty-state strategy and welding it to the Clinton-tested corporate politics of the Democratic Leadership Council. The Barry who went deep into enemy territory to suck the Red out of the Red States, the Barry who slew the Clinton dragon, and in doing so had to, as Yer Man said, “become a monster in order to defeat a monster.” His armies of beautiful young people charged into Denver this week determined to kick ass and take names as only humorless liberals can, and oh my, what a parade it has been. The gorgeous and dangerous Michelle Obama changed before our eyes from Angela Davis to Claire Huxtable (complete with Rudy and Olivia accessories) in truly whip-lashing speed, and, not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton herself came out swinging for Barry in a truly epic show of that same old transferrent projectionism that all of us liberals have come to know and love.

It didn’t stop there, of course. Undead ghosts of past Democratic defeats came out of the gates screeching like wild monkeys: Carter, Mondale, a particularly blood-thirsty John Kerry, and a particularly vindictive Albert Gore, Junior. Biden even waltzed through with his own tribute to violent mothers and marinated white-trash vengeance. And then the King Snake Himself came out: Big Bill Clinton, who once again waved his gnarled, knotted magic wand over the multitudes and charmed them all, wiping their memories with his own patented form of the vile Imperius Curse. It was masterful, and nothing that Tweety or Keef or Brit or Pat or Joe or any of those other bubble-headed mannequins said could take it away. And then Obama came out tonight and said some of the most eloquent, gorgeous, stinging, vibrant Nothing that I’ve ever been privileged to endure. And sucker that I am for righteous fury, I believe him.

So yeah, I was going to write all of that, except better and more thought-out, but I ultimately decided against it. Why? Because, as I’ve said before, I am at heart a creature of habit and comfort, of ego and sloth, and of familiar heroes and villains, and of humorless vituperation; and so even after an obvious piece of expensively overblown theater like the DNC, I will once again revert to type, conform to form, and vote Democrat. The speeches worked on me, folks. They really did, and though I should feel dirty and used and ashamed, I don’t. I don’t feel cynical or cool or above it all anymore, even though it’s in my professional interest to do so. I have never felt happier to be a liberal and a Democrat and an American, and fuck anyone sideways who has a problem with that. It’s not your problem, bitches. It’s MY problem, so let me deal with it.