The most important business book of the last year is Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars. Godin is only purporting to write a marketing book, but what he’s saying graps our Zeitgeist in a way that’s quite profound.
Just read this excerpt: “How did Fiji water become one of the bestselling brands of water in the United States—even though it’s one of the most expensive? Is it because it tastes that much better or is more nutritious? Nope. Fiji water is a winner because of the story the bottle tells.”
The premise of the book is that people are irrational, and lie to themselves. As long as they can maintain their illusions, they will act on them. We know that we’re not going to turn into a famous supermodel by using that makeup, but, using it is glamorous because these cool people are using it. You know how it goes.
The key is that you can make shit up, but it has to have at least some supporting connections to observable reality.
Republicans have had trouble lately. Their story is falling apart. They are supposed to be the party of traditional moral values, low taxes, limited federal government, traditional consitutional values, etc. George Bush has violated all of their story, except for ass kickin’ national defense, which has required a whole substory of its own in order to keep it looking that way.
But the Democrats’ story has been fucked since Clinton. It’s not that Clinton was a bad president; he wasn’t. But the Democrats swore on centrism and policy-based solution to just about everything without changing their image from the unofficial party of the 60s. The reason is, they haven’t tried to change. Democrats still try and sell their stuff as really progressive and Rooseveltian. They aren’t trying to sell themselves as “The People Who Know How To Govern(tm).” (Remember feeling like it would have been wayyyy better if Clinton was still in office on 9/11? Bush was barely tolerable until he had to actually handle something important.)
As such, everyone knows there’s no there there. Everyone to the center and right of the party thinks its a radical left wing party, still fitting that 60s image; everyone to the left of the party thinks they’re Diet-Republicans.
Democrats should make their message reflect their seeming ideological inconsistency: say, yeah, sometimes we don’t always act liberal–our real ideology is practicality. Maybe it’s bullshit, but that’s not the point; it will explain their behaviors and fit into people’s expectations of them on both sides. The difference between Dems isn’t that they’re simply more liberal, but that we’re not trying to make the world follow their ideology the way Bush has–and with disastrous results.