As business leaders, we all work to brand our products. We want potential clients to hear a name and instantly think of a set of attributes unique to our company. Branding is necessary for business but it is poisonous in politics.
Branding takes one of two paths.
Path one – if you identify yourself as a member of party – practitioners of branding then assume you walk in lockstep with everything the most radical side of the party espouses. Example – if one is a Democrat they will think Obamacare is the best thing since sliced bread – open our borders to everyone in Mexico and Latin America, grant them immediate citizenship, free medical care, housing and food – double taxes taking everything away from the wealthy and give it to lazy people that don’t want to work – seek out policies that destroy the moral fabric of America – destroy Christianity – and finally take away all our guns so the government can take all our rights away.
Republicans are equally branded. They feel guns are the solution to every problem and everyone should own them anonymously so the Commie liberals won’t sieze their weapons when the military imposes Marshall law. They want to take away all of women’s reproductive rights and keep them barefoot and pregnant. Voting rights should be restricted to people living above four times the poverty line and the social safety net should be removed for those below it. Corporate America pays too much taxes – should be free of all regulation – be allowed to do anything they want to do and receive tax breaks and Federal incentives to do it. President Obama is a Communist Muslim who was born in Yemen and will slide down your chimney’s this Christmas and take away all your guns. His wife will be there too to take all the junk food and treats from the your kids. All science is garbage and designed to destroy corporate America and Christianity. Health care was perfectly fine before, easily affordable and we didn’t need an Affordable Health Care Act to fix it.
Those who disagree with them equally brand the Tea Party, the Libertarians and the Greens but offending two groups today makes my point.
Path two is to take your stand on one issue – assign you to a political party and then jump to path one, above.
Political branding offends me. I never discuss politics with someone who brands. It’s like discussing astrophysics with the chimp. Political branding assumes that we rigidly and faithfully follow the ideology of one political party. Political branding suggests that we are not capable of examining specific issues and deciding for ourselves what our position is. Political branding seeks to make unthinking automatons of us all – programmed to sit, stand and speak and think by one political party or another. This is branding at its best – its least toxic form.
At its worst it leads to genocide. The Nazi’s branded the Jews. Hitler said they were the cause of all Germany’s economic and geopolitical troubles. Branding stripped them of their humanity making it easy to demonize them. Branding made them less than human so that killing them could become a business rather than an unspeakable crime against humanity.
Branding in politics is used to create fear, distrust and hatred. Simple minds use it to reduce larger brighter minds down to a set of slogans they can understand and denigrate. The major parties use branding to fuel 30 second TV spots aimed at people with 6th to 9h grade educations. Branding in political ads does not seek to make an argument – it seeks to paint an opponent as unworthy of respect and demonize them.
Don’t brand people. Give them credit for being able to think in complex ways – to understand the grey areas and make informed, reasonable choices based on discernment rather than the dogma of a particular party or organization. And as we enter the 2014 political season, don’t fall for the political ads or the garbage that gets forwarded to you on the Internet. In the unlikely event it is true, it is a gross oversimplification designed to appeal to your baser instincts. You are better and smarter than that.
Finally, if you have to brand someone – if the urge is just too much to resist – if my blog has not moved you – if you just have to call them something – then call them Americans.
Fred Thimmel, is the President of Bryant Products, and CEMA’s (Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association) Government Affair’s Committee Chair.
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