Sunday, September 26, 2010

Democrats and Dunkin' Donuts

As you have surely noticed, many businesses are organized as franchises. Fast-food restaurants, some auto-repair shops, and car dealers are examples. The point I want to make here is how these businesses advertise: centrally. GM does not take its advertising budget and hand it out to its dealerships to buy ads, nor does Perdue hand over its advertising dollars to its chicken farmers. Nearly all advertising in national franchises is done nationally. And I doubt the franchisees would wish it otherwise; it's hard to believe that Ernie Boch Toyota could do a better job of advertising the Camry than Toyota could.

Yet no one ever does this in politics. The job of the House and Senate campaign committees, and of the national committees, is to raise money for individual candidates to use on making their own commercials. Why does national advertising make sense for Dunkin' Donuts, but not for Democrats?

"All politics is local!" someone will say, meaning that voters really only care about local issues. Well (sorry, ghost of Tip O'Neill), that's not true. Democrats are having a tough time this year all over the country. This is not some bizarre coincidence; the fortunes of politicians of a particular party tend to rise and fall together. After all, some of the determinants of burger sales are local, too, but that doesn't mean a Hardee's franchise is worth as much as a McDonald's franchise. Even supposing that a Hardee's burger is better suited to local tastes, I'd rather own a McDonald's franchise, because it's a  brand name supported by a lot of advertising.

Clearly, Democrats have a brand-name problem. But before they decide that people don't like their product, they need to make sure people know what it is. And when misinformation is being spread nationally, why rely on locals to deal with it? In New Hampshire, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running an ad accusing Paul Hodes, the Democratic candidate for Senate, of having voted for a "government takeover" of health care. Why should individual candidates be the ones to deal with this nonsense? (Especially since some of them don't seem to have the spine for it. Instead of hitting back, Hodes is running an ad which doesn't mention that he's a Democrat--the equivalent of running a burger ad and hoping people won't notice that you're a Hardee's. Coincidentally, the ad uses a hot-dog eating contest as a metaphor for those awful people in Congress.)

If we really are moving toward an increasingly polarized politics (which I think is, given the American constitutional system, not a good thing), let's have the parties duke it out one-on-one, with advertising and slogans and idiotic sound bites and the whole thing.  At least then people would know what they're voting for. More or less.

No comments:

Post a Comment