08 March 2010

Two Party System Is To Government As Schiltz Is To Beer

The Examiner: Consent of the governed - and the lack thereof

According to a recent Rasmussen Poll , only 21 percent of American voters believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed. On the other hand, Rasmussen notes, a full 63 percent of the "political class" believe that the government enjoys the consent of the governed.

It's tempting to stress the disconnect here, and that disconnect is certainly huge. Unsurprisingly, the political class -- which talks mostly to itself -- thinks that it is far more popular, and legitimate, in the eyes of the country than is in fact the case. In this, as in so many things, America's political class is out of touch with reality.

The once-heady brew of American freedom has become watery and unsatisfying.

In fact, when I think of the federal government's brand now, I think of Schlitz beer. Schlitz was once a top national brew. But, in search of short-term gains, it began gradually reducing its quality in tiny increments to save money, substituting cheaper malt, fewer hops and "accelerated" brewing for its traditional approach.

Each incremental decline was imperceptible to consumers, but after a few years, people suddenly noticed that the beer was no good anymore. Sales collapsed, and a "Taste My Schlitz" campaign designed to lure beer drinkers back failed when the "improved" brew turned out not to be any better. A brand image that had been accumulated over decades was lost in a few years, and it has never recovered.

The federal government, alas, finds itself in much the same position. The political class sold its legitimacy off in drips and drabs. As "smart politics" has come over the past decades to mean not persuasion but the practice of legerdemain, the use of political deals, cover from a friendly press apparat and taking advantage of voters' rational ignorance, the governing classes have managed to achieve things that would surely have failed had the people known what was going on.

But though each little trick may have slipped by the voters, the voters have nonetheless noticed that the ultimate product isn't what it used to be. The end result, as with Schlitz, is a tarnished brand. And rescuing tarnished brands is hard.

No comments: