Sloganeering

Keep Slogans for consumer products

There’s nothing quite like a neat, succinct slogan (or natty headline for that matter) that neatly encapsulates a big point into a tasty few words.

Businesses strive for this with ‘tag lines’ for the promotional campaigns – ‘don’t cheat on the cheese‘ is one I remember back in the 1980s, being a TV ad for UK cheese producers. I remember being in a zoo in Holland, of all places, and hearing this line ring out from a couple of loud English lads. ‘English abroad, so embarrassing!’, I said to my Dutch friends at the time.

Another one was the classic ‘Tunes‘ ad for cough sweets, which ended with the newly cleared up man saying ‘Tunes’ in a self-pleased manner to a rather surprised looking railway ticket counter staff member. Many of us would imitate the way the word was said, and hence would help spread the brand name, much like, ironically, a virus.

So I like a good slogan. Well delivered.

Where I don’t like a good slogan is in politics. Especially if that’s all you get. Politics is more important than cough sweets and cheese. We’re talking about the people that make laws of the land, take charge of armies, the economy and represent the country in living form. Slogans may make for easy sound bites and get taken up by the TV media and social media feeds, but they don’t make for considered debate. They don’t elucidate, they aim to simplify and deflect.

After decades of political sloganeering, first made famous 50 or 60 years ago (“I like Ike” and “All the way with LBJ”), we have somewhat distilled all political discourse down to a few words. “Stop the Boats” did for Tony. “Kevin Oh Seven” worked for Rudd. “Change you can believe in” was Obama. “Make America Great Again” is tapping into a large section of disaffected US voters right now with The Donald.

What I’d like to know is (to use another catch cry) “where’s the beef?” Where’s the real debate, the insightful discussion? Back in Abe Lincoln’s days, people would come from far and wide to hear a real debate. Speeches would go on for hours. Sloganeering would not do (on its own).

If the US is to elect President Trump, then he needs to be be made to work harder than spout dangerous invective that might look good on a bumper sticker, but has no substance behind it. You know, like actual policies, experience, analysis and thought. Any time he is asked for the second and third sentences behind his headlines, he struggles to provide substance.

If people came to me for a job I would probably place them in an interview, initially on the phone and then face to face. I would not be doing my job if I allowed them to get away with limp, empty answers. If they evaded the question, I would re-ask the question or take them to task. It’s too important when you are selecting someone, who the business is going to invest possibly several hundreds of thousands of dollars in over many years. Hiring the best people is one of the most important jobs of senior management.

When Trump is asked who he consults on foreign policy issues (he has absolutely no experience of this important area) Trump says “myself, primarily .. because I have a very big brain.”

Seriously? This is your answer? Would Obama have been allowed to say such a thing? I remember a Vice President getting into trouble for not being able to spell potato (hardly a heinous crime). If Trump did this, he’d smile, shrug his shoulders and somehow blame Muslims or Mexicans.

Reality TV (for that is where Trump has come from) has infested presidential campaigning. Trump is supremely successful at the former, and he’s segueing this into the latter. How disturbing is that? How dangerous.

Hillary Clinton, in a foreign policy address this week, eviscerated Trump’s ideas by not even calling his ideas, ideas. “They are just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

“He’s not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and responsibility.”

Note how Clinton did not just say he’s unfit to be President, it went far deeper. In a 35 minute address, she outlined her own policies and credentials (which are very much on the record) and made the case (at last) that Trump is just too fragile, too much of a walking joke, to ever be anywhere near anything like Presidential office. This wasn’t about Trump’s policies (what are they anyway?), it was about his very character.

Devoid of anything but an ability to self promote, that is exactly what Trump does – self promote, through incessant call ins to 24 TV news channels (feeding the beast, who gleefully take it up and give him time) or through 140 character bullying statements on his twitter account. If anyone in the media does stand up to him, he simply boycotts their show. As Clinton was speaking, she mentioned that Trump was probably stirring up another twitter rant right now – and of course, he was. Despite Clinton quoting him word for word on many occasions, he just called her ‘Crooked Hillary’ and described the things she said about him ‘not honest!’ More slogans.

So, are we going to see a sloganeer win the highest elected office on the planet? It’s not out of the question. And if that happens, what does that say about what our politics has been reduced to?

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