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April 22, 2005

Good Marketing, Bad Products - Part II

Chris Charuhas

In my previous article, I related how a friend of mine asked why I wasn't a member of his political party. I explained it in terms of business: I didn't like the fact that his party lies to its customers in order to sell them products that don't benefit them.

My friend said, "What are you talking about? My party is the only thing standing between me and people who want to make the country socialist, take my guns away, and give gays special treatment."

Emphasizing those issues is a marketing ploy, I explained. Voting to maintain capitalism, preserve gun rights, and protect society against gays is like buying rust-protection with your new car. The salesman may push it on you, but you don't need it.

Members of the other party, often labeled "socialist" by their opponents, are actually some of the most aggressive capitalists around. That party's Maryland state chairman, Terry Lierman, founded several companies. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andy Rappaport is one of that party's biggest supporters.

The other party doesn't want to take anyone's guns away, except felons'. If it did, I wouldn't be a member of that party: I love trap shooting, and like having a gun in the house.

No one wants to give gays special treatment. However, the other party wants to give them the same rights as everyone else. This is the biggest non-problem ever painted as a crisis by my friend's party. When same-gender couples are allowed to marry in civil ceremonies, this will cause a small epidemic.of people spending quiet nights at home.

The purpose of his party's commies/guns/gays rhetoric is threefold: first, to make its customers fear and distrust alternative products. Secondly, to create a sense of urgency that motivates its customers to buy. And thirdly, to make its customers believe they're getting some value, when in fact they' re not getting what they pay for.

His party's tactics are those of the street hustler: jostle the mark so he won't notice that his pocket's being picked.

His party makes mountains out of molehills on trumped-up social issues: "They want to burn the flag! Ban your bible! Let gays run wild!"

It does this to distract voters from its economic policies: "We want to reduce your social safety net, put more of the country's tax load on your back, and then give billions to the conglomerates we own and our millionaire supporters.

My friend asked, "Are you sure about that? I feel like the candidates I vote for understand me."

I told him that's the point: to make you feel like you're getting what you paid for, and distract you from seeing that you aren't. To figure it out, I said to him, "focus on what your party's leaders do, not what they say."

For instance, most of his party's members consider the Saudi Royal Family to be corrupt financiers of terrorism. His party decries terrorism, too, but its leader - the president - suppresses documents that may prove high-level Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

His party's members want our soldiers to be well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led. His party's leaders say this, too, but its military leader - the Secretary of Defense - has rushed reservists into combat without adequate training, dragged his feet on armoring their vehicles, and made a few grunts take the fall when an illegal torture system he created was exposed.

His party's members typically want tax cuts. Who doesn't? His party's leaders talk a lot about this, but their major policy initiative has been big tax deferrals. They weren't tax cuts, because they weren't paid for with spending cuts. Wealthy citizens get the lion's share of that borrowed money, which we non-wealthy taxpayers must pay back with interest.

In my next article, I'll show why my friend's party pushes products designed to benefit a small number of its preferred customers.

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