“We better all hang together, or we’ll all hang separately.” — Ben Franklin
Here’s a question for ya.
What does politics have in common with marketing?
I’ll give you the answer in a moment… but first, a short rant from our sponsor (me):
There’s some stellar TV happening right now, and I’ll bet you’re missing it. HBO is doing a multi-part series on John Adams, the “forgotten” Founding Father of our little experiment in democracy here.
It’s just killer. The executive producer is Tom Hanks, who has become a national treasure by insisting on using his mojo in Hollywood to get “good” stuff made.
If you like history, you’ll go ga-ga over this series. They nailed the late 18th-century down to the nail, literally — showing the exact implements and tools and clothing details of the period. I mean, they researched how grape vines were held upright in gardens, and used real oxen to pull wooden sleds with real canon through real mud.
And if you like this country, you’ll be freakin’ riveted.
The main thing that jumps out, for me, in this bio-epic is how silly — and hurtful to thinking people — the crazy myths about the creation of this nation, hoisted by our current crop of political goons, are.
Splitting from the British crown was a messy, unbelievably dangerous affair back then… and by no means were our founding fathers prepared, or unanimous. These were men of the Enlightenment, mostly — as educated and progressive as anyone on the planet at the time (and more so than most of the clueless mob we live with today)… interested in Big Thoughts about what it meant to be free.
And, yeah, willing to die for a shot at it.
Still, the crap slopped around by today’s “patriots” is a vicious fairy tale. There was nothing simple about declaring independence, and the fight that ensued was a vicious and dirty brawl (“dirty” as in using ungentlemanly tricks, deceit, unfair punches, and psychological warfare). (These guys were filthy fighters.)
But here’s the thing: It’s a fantasy that we started life as a nation “united”. We barely came together for the revolution as 13 sparsely-settled colonies who often despised each other… and any notion our current 50 states could ever “come together” for any length of time remains a fantasy today.
One-third of the colonial populace wanted to remain British subjects. Another third wanted to be left alone, and out of the equation altogether. Only around a third were into the fight… and these men probably wouldn’t get along with any modern day “patriot” very well.
Those rebels were all over the map with their religious beliefs, their ideas about government, and their notions of what “freedom” meant. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would get thrown out of church today for heresy — they were total scientific progressives and free-thinkers who had no patience with the hard-core believers they shared their commonwealths with. They took the concept of being rebels further than you have been led to believe.
You know what got the revolution going?
Compromise. A dirty word to many politicians today.
And yet, essential to our very existence.
This HBO series makes clear the evolution of John Adams from clueless “listen to me!” blowhard, to skilled master of compromise. (Hint: This is a hint to the answer about what politics and marketing have in common.)
And it was never a clean, surgical compromise, either. The very “agree-to-disagree” agreements that helped Adams and his homeboys cobble together the union… led to the blood-drenched Civil War just a generation later. (The southern colonies wouldn’t come along in the fight against England unless the northern ones agreed to ignore slavery. Which they were appalled by. So it was a pact formed with fingers crossed from the beginning.)
The thing that gets me about our history… is not the way we gave the largest power in the world at the time the finger… nor is it our current flawed system of governance. (And boy, is it ever flawed.)
What gets me, every time I think about it… is the raw concept of freedom that was envisioned (and partially still plays out today) (though we better get hip to the ways it’s being dismantled or lose it forever).
What these white landowners wanted… was what every beat-down, oppressed, thought-controlled poor-ass slouch barely allowed himself to dream of throughout history: The notion that nobody else had a right to tell you how to think, or what to do. And nobody — nobody — was “born” into power. You earned it, dude.
You earned it.
Americans should fall on their knees every freaking day of our lives, and thank those nervous Enlightenment gentlemen who joined hands and dived into a “ready, fire, aim” war against pissed-off royalty who were murderously opposed to the notion that a “regular schlub” could ever think for himself.
America is not special because of geography, or divine guidance (for sure not for divine guidance), or because we are somehow “different”. We’re not. We’re made of the same stock and DNA as every other nationality on earth.
No. What is special about us… is that glimmer in the eye of the slave a thousand years ago, or that desperate wish of the guy with a boot on his neck over in China right now.
It’s all about power — who has it, how it’s used, and what your options are against it.
People wanted George Washington to just be “king”, once the revolution succeeded. The concept of thinking for yourself — so prized among the learned men who started the whole idea of secession — scared the crap out of the average man.
And it still does, today.
But that’s the price of making America work. I’m sorry if I offend anyone here (and you will never guess my true political allegiance — I belong to no party, have never voted for a winning president despite gleefully voting every chance I get, and I despise ideology)… but the very notion of being a “dittohead” is absurd. You can agree with someone in power… but the notion that you agree with him 100% makes you a sheep.
The scenes of the early Continental Congress in this HBO series captures the pure chaos of conflicting ideas and hurt feelings and confused demands that must have dominated every meeting.
These guys didn’t have a single vision for a government.
They all suspected the other guy was gonna have too much power or influence, and most wondered what new kind of tyranny might fill the void after the currrent snobbish, autocratic monarchy was booted out.
That’s where the genius of our government comes in. The checks and balances of the three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) were not an accident… and they had NEVER been balanced like this before in history.
No one trusted anyone else with too much power. All manner of stop-gap measures and safety valves were installed. A civilian-led Army. No state-sanctioned religion. We became a nation of laws, and not men (meaning, no one was above the law, and no one in power got to make it up as they went — there was a process where laws were created through compromise, and could be changed).
The resulting freedom has always been fragile, and the founding fathers would probably be astonished it’s worked so long as it has.
They would likely be astonished by a lot of other things, too (not even counting the Web, the gas engine, airplanes, and Hollywood).
Has the dream been tarnished?
This seems to be the one thing that thinking people from both sides of the political spectrum can agree on — the jokers now in power have screwed things up. Too many ideologues thought they knew better than the founding fathers, and found clever ways around the rules.
We got punk’d, people.
It’s gonna take a lot of adults, unencumbered with ideology, to clean this mess up.
I wish the prez race wasn’t so much like a high school campaign for Homecoming Queen and King. I wish the freaking media would step up and do their job of asking the tough questions. And I wish people would just stop being so DUMB and easily manipulated.
Wake me up when that happens, would you?
…time to answer the question.
You should have guessed by now, of course. You probably did.
What politics and marketing have in common… is salesmanship.
Again, not to throw political stones (cuz both main parties have a LOT to answer for right now)… but the GOP realized this a long time ago, while the Dems snoozed.
Their message has been pushed for fifty years now… by advertising guys. Specifically, direct marketing experts. Rove (and his sleazeball mentor, Lee Atwater), and his cronies tested slogans, pounded targeted mailing lists (every outgoing letter with the word “Hillary” in it raises money), and countered every possible objection with psychologically pleasing (but totally invented) new “facts” that steered an anesthetized audience off the cliff (so to speak).
However, before anyone gets all puffed up and riled… it’s time to realize that it has ever been thus. It’s not the GOPs fault they discovered the magic of salesmanship. They really believed in what they were pitching… and people bought it, so they kept doing it.
It just got out of hand.
But again — it has always been this way.
From the very beginning of this country, the “people” were slow to understand exactly what this new experiment in democracy was offering them. It’s not about freedom from taxation — it’s about having representation when you’re taxed. It’s not about living without oversight — it’s about having laws that meet the fussy requirements of being sustainable by a majority, without hurting the minority (and that’s what most of the amendments are about).
And it’s not about achieving some bullshit vision of a population marching in lockstep in any single direction. This is what pisses off so many would-be power-grabbing assholes — that damn Bill of Rights, with its annoying protection of free speech (especially the stuff you don’t want to hear) and guarantees against the excesses of power.
Of course, that oft-battered Bill of Rights has taken a pretty gnarly beating lately. Suspension of habeus corpus (which every one of us should cringe in shame over), secret government actions, and childish grabs for power have eaten away at our prestige in the world, and our ability to see past the internal squabbling to do what’s right.
And what the HELL is going on with the privatization of the prison system?
What’s happened here? Have we just reached some point in evolution where we all go batshit insane at once?
John Adams became a salesman, because he had to. He tried to bludgeon his colleagues with his ideas, and failed. He tried to pout and insult his way to dominance, and failed. And he tried to just walk away from the fight… take his ball and go home. And (because he was a true patriot) he failed to stay away.
And so he learned the art of salesmanship. As a force for evil, killer salemanship will trounce good. But as a tool of the good man — as it was with Adams — it becomes a means to create something wonderful and amazing out of chaos and fear and even a dearth of leadership.
We’re not a great nation because we were assigned the job. We kinda earned it, over a very long time, by refusing to let the assholes deconstruct the foundation of our freedoms.
If America is gonna regain its greatness, it has to find its moral bearings again. We don’t have far to look — the Bill of freakin’ Rights is a good place to start. Then the rules for keeping the balance of power intact in the Constitution should be tatooed on every politician’s forehead.
And the jerks in the think tanks need to get a life. Literally — get engaged in real life, and stop pretending that ideology has any business in the reality of running a country. Write your damn book, get on a speaking tour, become a pundit… that’s the extent of the ideologue’s job.
When they get their hands into the government, they screw it up. They always have, and always will.
John Adams may have died almost two centuries ago.
He still had more smarts and vision than the bozo’s running things today.
Being a salesman isn’t inherently bad. In fact, it was and continues to be a REQUIRED tool in any thinking person’s bag of tricks (right next to being well-read and open to new ideas).
Salesmanship is like swordplay was before guns. If you didn’t bother to learn it — and learn it well enough to trust your life to your skill — then you were at the mercy of those who did. The bad guys have never hesitated to arm themselves, and get good at domination.
It often runs against the grain of a clear-headed, generous and well-meaning person to learn the tools of persuasion and influence. Of, essentially, self-defense in the constant war of ideas this world is embroiled in.
We better hope enough good people have been boning up on exactly those skills, however, if we expect this fragile notion of freedom to survive the incessant bleating of the sheep around us, goaded constantly by nasty types who lust for more power than the founding fathers ever trusted anyone to have.
You don’t win just by having the better idea, or the better product.
Learn salesmanship. Learn it well. And do good with it.
P.S. Okay… on a much lighter note: If you haven’t bothered to get on my list (and why you haven’t, I cannot understand — go to the notification box at the upper right on this page, and do it now, you knucklehead)… then you probably don’t realize we’ve been posting a whole bunch of cool video clips from the recent Copywriting Sweatshop I hosted.
Actually, you can zip over to this link here and not only start viewing these short-but-viciously-effective video clips (of me at fever pitch, sharing the good stuff about writing kick-ass copy)… but also sign up there to see the NEW clips about to be posted.
Here’s that link:
We hit a thousand sign-ups a long time ago, and while we’re not pushing these clips very hard, buzz has begun in earnest. (I’m on YouTube! I’m so proud…)
Don’t get shut out of the fun. The clips are free. It’s good stuff.
I highly recommend you sign up at this link, and see what’s happening behind the scenes, too. Very interesting — and necessary — for anyone looking to be a survivor in the coming business environment…
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
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