“Follow me, because I believe what you believe.”
This is a paraphrased rallying cry of far too many political campaigns. It’s a common theme for the simple reason that it works. When spoken in solemn tones, or shouted with vigor, it fires up the hopeful. It gives the lone individual a sense of belonging.
Yet, when it’s written down and presented dispassionately, it’s somewhat disappointing as it can be more easily recognized for what it is — a generic slogan for those who wish to garner support.
What that candidate wants is to gain your trust, your faith, and your support. Whether expressed in votes, or dollars, or letters to the editor, it doesn’t really matter. The person speaking is trying to get you to buy their particular line of rhetoric. That’s fair.
What is less fair is the use of polls, surveys, and questionnaires to try to find out what you believe, so the salesperson can craft their message to meet your beliefs.
Consider an example that more seasoned readers of this post will remember well. In the 1960s the world suddenly got all modern and sparkly. It seemed that everything being manufactured by anyone was clean and shiny and ready to launch off into this bright world we were living in. Then, some advertising or marketing genius decided their product could benefit from the addition of three words to their advertising campaign: “New and improved.”
If you’re of a certain age, you recall a time when walking down the aisle of a supermarket meant being accosted by labels and posters and streamers proclaiming everything from dishwashing soap to instant mashed potatoes as new and improved.
Seemingly every product in American had been substandard. They all needed tweaking. Nothing in our homes was good enough. It was all being reformulated, repackaged, restyled, and renewed. It became new and improved.
Yet somehow, life didn’t change much. Dishes still got dirty, carpets still needed vacuuming, cars still ran low on gas, and a certain young boy still had the ability to ruin a brand new pair of dress pants by sliding on his knees in the grass.
Of course that could never happen today, right? I mean, we’re all smart and educated and wise to the ways of charlatans and hucksters. Of course we are. We know a thing or two about what’s what.
Sure, mom and dad were hoodwinked by marketing geniuses in the old days, but that’s because people like Don Draper were soulless weasels who would sell their mother’s best china if they could make a buck off it. We’re kinder and gentler today. We’d never fall for the sort of nonsense.
And so with that in mind, I give you gluten-free bacon. Yes, that’s a real product. As are gluten free bubble bath, corn flakes, shampoo, and glass cleaner. Glass cleaner? Yes, glass cleaner.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease is evident in less than 1% of the general population. For those who suffer from the disorder, gluten is the trigger. Knowing which foods contain gluten and which don’t can be a real issue.
However, that pertains to food alone, and food made with wheat, rye, or barley. Corn? Nope, no gluten there. Shampoo and glass cleaner? Seriously.
So what’s all this have to do with aviation? This is, after all, an aviation publication, and so far I’ve been going on about Mad Men, and marketing, and gluten. Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you the truth. The paragraphs above don’t have the first thing to do with aviation. Rather, it has to do with you. And me. And everyone else, frankly.
This is an election year. In addition to selecting a president, voters will be filling 34 Senate seats, all 435 House seats, and settling a dozen gubernatorial races.. In addition to all those candidates, you will be hearing the messages of a fair number of speech writers, poll takers, statisticians, coordinators, policy directors, advisors, and confidants.
Yet while most of what you hear will be from the mouths of the candidates themselves, they will actually be the words of a legion of people behind the scenes who feel for the pulse of the electorate, craft the message, commit to policies yet enacted, and promise you the moon and the stars if you’ll just come on over and vote for the man or woman on the stump.
It’s a great time to be on bamboozle alert.
What does that have to do with aviation? Everything. What if voters had turned out in large numbers to oppose Mayor Daley’s closing of Meigs Field? What if voters stood tall and told the mayor and city council of Santa Monica, California, the airport is of greater value to them in the long term than another high rise development, of which the city has many.
In short, do the people we elect have a bearing on how well aviation is viewed as an educational morale booster, an industrial employment generator, a transportation system of tremendous value, or a recreational endeavor that enriches the lives of millions — most of whom are not involved in aviation directly? Yes. Yes, they do. Very much so.
So take care this year as you listen to the speeches and read the reivews. Is your candidate a new and improved version of the last person to hold the office, or are they “New and Improved?”
The nuance of the question matters to all of us — especially in aviation.