Right, that’s done then. The final debate. I watched it. I didn’t learn anything new (and didn’t expect to). I knew it wasn’t going to change my vote (partly because I’ve already voted and partly because there are only two candidates and one of them is an ignorant misogynistic Russian intelligence asset, which makes the choice pretty easy). I guess I watched it out of a sense of social obligation. One of these elderly white guys is going to be running the nation; I should do them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say.
These aren’t real debates, of course. They’re what we’ve settled for in the US because viewers don’t have the patience for an actual debate. And let’s face it, candidates are too afraid of making a mistake to engage in a real exchange of ideas, so what we end up with instead is political marketing.
That’s not entirely a bad thing. The whole idea of marketing is to get people interested enough in something — a product or a service or a candidate — to make some sort of financial or emotional investment in it. To buy it. Or support it.
During the ‘debate’ last night, Uncle Joe Biden, the career public servant, occasionally turned to the camera and directly addressed the voters at home. He promoted his Prez-o-matic, telling folks it would make them safer, keep them warmer, heal their wounds, clear the air, and create mounds of julienne fries in just seconds. On the other hand, Comrade Trump, the businessman, the self-proclaimed marketing genius, never addressed the voters directly. He spent the evening either telling the moderator that his Trumpco Dicer was the best kitchen tool ever invented until China broke it or claiming Biden’s Prez-o-matic made black people sick.
To her credit, Kristen Welker, the moderator, gave both candidates the chance to do some direct marketing with her final question of the night. “Imagine this is your inauguration day. What will you say in your address, to Americans who did not vote for you?” This is what Trump would say to people who didn’t vote for him:
“We have to make our country totally successful, as it was prior to the plague coming in from China…. We had the best Black unemployment numbers in the history of our country. Hispanic, women, Asian, people with diplomas, with no diplomas, MIT graduates; number one in the class, everybody had the best numbers…. Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes, and he wants to raise everybody’s taxes and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a Depression, the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”
Here’s what Biden would say to people who didn’t vote for him:
“I’m an American President. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me, and I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to move; we’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better…. I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor, respect. Treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that.”
In a normal election cycle, the contest would come down to a simple question: If you were shopping for a kitchen tool, who would you buy it from? Who would you trust to provide you with a reliable, fully functional, ergonomic, easy-to-use, dishwasher safe utensil? Which product do you want on your kitchen counter — the Trumpco Dicer or the Biden Prez-o-matic?
But this is not a normal election. In this election the makers of the Trumpco Dicer are promoting a broken product. In a way, it doesn’t matter whether or not China broke it; they haven’t repaired it. In addition, they’ve spent their advertising money on fast food and trucknuts, so they’re broke; they can’t produce many product commercials. Instead of promoting the Trumpco Dicer, they’re trying to make it more difficult for you to buy a Biden Prez-o-matic.
It’s lousy marketing of a lousy product.