Cadillac vs. Ford–Using the Political Divide to Sell Stuff

Today, much hay has been made of a Ford ad that parodies a Cadillac ad.  In the Cadillac ad, a wealthy 1 percenter uses language reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s “takers vs. makers” remarks during the 2012 election campaign.

In the Ford ad, a hip do-gooder extols the virtues of real environmentalism and giving a damn, invoking the values of the Left.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAN61QK0aUI

Here’s what I hate:  both ads are designed to appeal to our emotions–specifically the emotions that drive our political leanings (at least in today’s climate).  These are both American made cars and both are environmentally friendly. But since the target audiences don’t really overlap, the advertisers have decided it’s okay to use the Foxnews/MSNBC model (both equally bad in my opinion) of divisiveness to sell a product.  The Cadillac guy is kind of a dick, but he’s got a beautiful house and wife and he sounds like a Republican. The Ford gal is kind of smug and self-satisfied but she looks hip and sounds like a Democrat. They both have a hint of condescension in their voices as they lecture the rest of us on American Values.  This works great for the car companies cause they can create a false feud and gain youtube hits, and those hits are designed for the eyeballs in their target demographic.  In the meantime perfectly decent people with slightly differing political opinions now see one another as enemies instead of fellow-Americans who share many values despite their differences.  I’m beginning to think that moderation is the most radical value in America today.

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In A World…

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Something I’ve noticed is that conservatives often concede that liberal ideas (universal health care, public education, even some types of welfare) could work in “theory” in an “ideal world” where nobody takes advantage of the system and where the government does not trample on the individual’s right to self-determination.

I’ve been thinking the same thing about the conservative philosophy lately.  I know many people who believe that capitalism and private enterprise should be allowed to thrive, untethered by regulation, and that many functions now performed by government should be the realm of private companies.  I’ve heard Libertarians suggest that we do away with the FDA and allow private entities to spring up to perform the duties of food inspection and safety.  These folks believe that if consumers demand it, private companies will provide it in a more robust and efficient manner.

When I put aside my political identity, the part of me that aligns with everything that is “progressive” and “liberal,” I have to agree that this sounds like a cool idea.  Allow people to come up all kinds of business models for the public good?  What a great opportunity for our entrepreneurial citizens!   We could take over the schools, the post office, the FDA–you name it!

But this is when I realize that–just as conservatives believe the socialist ideal is something that only works in theory–I believe the Libertarian ideal only works in theory.  The problem is greed.  Time and time again we see that when profit is the motive, people will do unethical things to make money.  We’ve seen it on Wall Street, we’ve seen it with drug companies, we’ve seen it with cigarette manufacturers–we’ve seen it time and time again when private enterprise is so focused on profit that they are willing to screw over their customers to make a buck.

I do believe that there are some things that need to be protected from the natural human tendency toward greed.  The safety of the drugs we take, our food supply, the education of our citizenry–I believe these things should not be for sale, or at least if they are for sale, that they need oversight because if we don’t get these things right the consequences are life and death.

I welcome thoughtful comments on this issue.  Above all, I am trying to open my mind to good ideas.  I am trying not to treat political ideas like sports, where your team is always the best and the other guy’s ideas suck.  The stakes are too high.

Welcome to Talk It Out, America

Fox News vs. MSNBC.  Rush Limbaugh vs. Ed Schultz.  Libtards vs. Repugs.  America-haters vs. Rightwing-Nutjobs.

It seems lately that America is a nation divided.  From online comments boards to Facebook memes to chain e-mails, you’ll find people with opposing views hurling barbs and insults at one another.  The result is that those who agree with you click a “like” button, and those who do not then hurl insults in return.  It is as if The Right and The Left have become 2 enormous sports teams with legions of rabid fans who hate nothing more than the other team, and who will do anything to see their own team win.  But just as in a Cubs Cardinals game (or for you Easterners, a Yankees/Red sox game)–even more fun than winning is watching your enemy lose.

While this new national pastime inspires passion and riles up the fanbases, I don’t think it’s actually good for the game.  Because in this case, the game is life.

As recently as a year or so ago, I remember feeling so riled up about my own team (the liberals, or democrats, Go Blue!) that I wished I could live in a place where I never had to see or talk to or deal with any of those annoying Republicans (conservatives) ever again.  But then I woudln’t be able to see my dad or my step-mother.  Or our good friends Tom and Jen.  Or my neighbors Lisa and Scott.  Boy, I sure would miss those guys.

I began to feel anxiety whenever a family gathering loomed and I just hoped and prayed we could get out of there before anybody talked about politics.  (pretty evenly split, although the dems hold a slight advantage in my family)  Whenever we talked about politics, things got tense, and I ended up wondering how people in my own family could have a worldview that is so different from my own.  I imagine they thought the same thing about me.

I did notice something else, though.

Whenever we talked about issues it was very civilized.  We could come to agreement on some points, but even when we did not, which was much of the time, we left the conversation with a feeling of respect and understanding for the person with the opposing view.

I made a decision about how I would handle talking about politics in the future.  I decided to ask questions about specific issues.  I decided to ask conservatives and Republicans why they believe the things they believe.  I tried to answer thoughtfully without picking an argument and without being defensive.  Harder still, I tried to listen, and tried to understand.

I have come to a few conclusions, which I’ll share later.

For now, I hope to encourage discussion–civil, thoughtful, respectful discussion–among people with opposing viewpoints.  I promise to do everything in my power to hold liberals to the smae standards as conservatives.  (if this thing ever takes off beyond a few posts, I’ll try and find a conservative partner to ensure that this is truly a bipartisan effort)  Comments will be rigorously monitored to avoid insults and generalizations.  Talking points will be discouraged.

Let’s see what happens.