Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

“Forward”—a useless campaign slogan can be replaced

It’s silly, of course, to complain about a slogan. It’s “workmanlike” and it can’t possibly divide the country, offend swing voters, or even be disputed by the other side. Further, after his campaign spends millions repeating it in commercials, it’ll end up being as Barack Obama as his flag pin.

Banal and even silly ideas all make perfect sense at the end of winning campaigns.

Imagine what critics could have done to Obama’s introductory slogan “Change we can believe in.” It left you literally free to go back as well as forward. More dangerously, it could have been read as an insolent slur, an attack on the integrity of his opponent, war hero Senator John McCain.

Nevertheless, people are paid handsomely to design and pick campaign slogans and they ought at least to do better than chose to do no harm.

Drew Westen, the author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation,” said he would have chosen the slogan Obama attached to this year’s State of the Union address: “An America Built to Last.” Click on:

Despite being free, Obama should feel free to take his advice. After all, he had the nerve to change his mind on individual mandates and shoot Bin Laden.

Obama ought to get back to “An America Built to Last.” It’s vivid, it’s dynamic, and it can be used against Romney’s paper capitalism.

It has the virtue of emphasizing that the election is about choices, lasting structural changes verses the magic of massive tax cuts. A slogan that some people don’t like can inspire those who like it to bother to vote. A slogan as vacuous as “Forward” leaves you free to feel nothing.

Certainly, “An America Built to Last” conjures visions of manufacturing—and manufacturing isn’t everything. Nevertheless, manufacturing is again a good news story in America; its recovery is far more important to restoring hope amongst the young and the unemployed than market reports from Wall Street. (The family farm isn’t what it used to be, but it still enjoys a significant place in American politics.)

Republicans insist that America can act like Number One because of its military might. American confidence in the future will more likely be restored by reminding them that America is still the world’s most successful manufacturer.

Obama’s pre-occupation with rebuilding American manufacturing isn’t merely “rust bowl” politics; it’s exploiting, not resisting economic and technology trends. Note conservative Neil Reynolds’ column today, “Technology spurring a new manufacturing revolution.”

“Some big U.S. companies report that they will soon be “reshoring” – returning production to technologically advanced rich countries. Global consulting firm Boston Consulting Group reported recently that one-third of U.S.-based manufacturers operating in China, companies with $1-billion in annual revenue, have confirmed plans to reshore part of their Chinese production; among bigger companies, those with $10-billion in revenue, the number rises to 50 per cent. BCG said reshoring will create as many as three million jobs in the U.S. by the end of the decade, and increase the country’s annual industrial production by $100-billion.”

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