I love politics, you know.
It’s live theater, performed without a net. Being a true Independent, I am free to tap the wisdom and inanity of both the left and the right.
Oh, hell. And the middle, too.
It’s ALL wacky!
I got sucked into politics back in high school, during the height of the Vietnam War. I was still in school — snarling with senioritis — when I turned 18… and I was assigned a very low number for the draft. Which meant that the asshole teachers I was waging youthful rebellion with had the power to kick me out of school… and straight into a foxhole.
If I didn’t straighten up. Godammit.
Somehow, I made it to Grad Night without a GI crewcut, but this low-blow intimidation by people who felt entitled to lording their power over me opened my eyes, politically.
You know I love this nation. But I have no illusions that it’s “the people” who make it great. “The people”, in fact, often act like spoiled children or Huns with their blood-lust fired up.
No. It’s the Constitution that makes our country great. European revolutions in thought resulted in the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, a mere couple of hundred of years ago… and for the first time in history, regular folks started to consider the implications of true democracy.
We are, without doubt, the result of the entire arc of civilization to this point — the wet dream of every poor slob who ever lived under the cruel yoke of a Machiavellian bully — and the reason we’ve been able to buck the natural human trend toward tyranny and enslavement… rests solely with the Consititution and Bill of Rights.
We are not exceptional just because we live in North America.
We are exceptional because we’ve kept a fragile ideal alive. Despite near constant attempts by even our own neighbors to junk the rights that annoy them. (Not our neighbors in other countries — I’m talking about the people living across the street from you.)
So, yeah, I pay attention to politics.
However… as a marketer, I know when to keep my big mouth shut.
I’ve recently seen a few marketers (who should know better) indulge in the very common “misperception of shared political values.”
Here’s how it works: You’re a nice guy. You feel strongly about your political beliefs, and over the years have surrounded yourself with like-minded people. You can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with you — because, you know, you’re such a regular American and all that.
And so you assume your customers — being nice, regular people — must agree with you, too.
I was just at the vet’s office with our terrier. Got into a nice, friendly conversation with another couple about our dogs. We laughed, traded stories, and cooed over each other’s pets.
Then the husband — figuring that I was a nice, regular kinda guy, just like him — made a vicious crack about the political party he opposed.
Just assumed I shared his views. Probably hadn’t breathed the same air as someone with different opinions in a long time.
I didn’t respond… and my lack of response almost made him freak out. He was no longer friendly.
How dare I not share his superior, enlightened view of the world.
I’m sure he thought I had horns under my Red Sox hat and cloven hooves hidden in my Rockports.
Dude, I will talk politics with you. I love to hear debates on issues, and I love underhanded political humor, too.
But there’s a time and a place. Especially when you’re the type who seriously considers slashing the tires of people who disagree with your belief systems.
The lesson: You can’t tell what the other guy is thinking just by looking at him. And you can’t tell based on his personality, either. I have friends who are hippie Republicans, conservative Democrats, Hummer-driving Greens (go figure), business-owning Socialists and on down the line.
And I know my list of customers and prospects is just as much of a motley crew.
There’s a reason why good saloons won’t allow anyone to discuss politics or religion. There’s nothing more pathetic than two incoherent drunks wrestling in the parking lot over some obscure ideological point that neither has any influence over.
You can get passionate about politics. I hope you do — it keeps us healthy as a nation.
But keep it out of your business life.
Too many Americans are setting themselves up in echo chambers, where they never hear a dissenting voice. Broaden your horizons. Get a daily reality check, and stop thinking you’re the last word on anything of importance.
My suggestion: Check out www.drudgereport.com to see how the right wing is spinning things… then go immediately to www.huffingtonpost.com to see how the same stories are positioned by the lefties. It’s an eye-opener.
Good homework, too. To be a top marketer, you’ve got to wake up and see reality as it truly is… not as you wish it were, or think it ought to be. You don’t have that luxury.
And I hope you voted. I think people who hold themselves “above” voting because politics is “too corrupt” are wallowing in useless cynicism. Of course politics is corrupt. It’s an imperfect system.
Good God, that’s why it’s such fun.
And, by the way, everything else in life is imperfect, too. Love, war, the tread-wear on your Firestones. Everything.
You don’t vote for the short-term stuff, like whatever particular topic du jour has your panties twisted.
No. You vote to keep the engines of the Constitution greased and running smooth.
Okay, I’m done.