The PR Campaign to Dupe America

There has been a very conscious PR campaign to dupe the American public about how they should see political issues. You can date this campaign from September 23, 1952, when Richard Nixon gave his famous “Checkers Speech.” The campaign has largely succeeded, as indicated by the fact that the Middle Class very often votes against its own interests, having been influenced to cast their votes based on issues that don’t really matter to the quality of their lives. They have been duped. It’s a big mistake to believe that the driving factor of a political campaign is “the economy, stupid.” Rather, the driving factor is that value that you can get the electorate to believe should be the driving factor.

How Nixon’s Checkers Speech Gave Birth To The PR Campaign To Dupe America

In September 1952, Eisenhower had not yet named his choice for running mate and Nixon was facing real challenges to his desire to get that position. So, he bought 30 minutes of TV time following the hugely popular Milton Berle Show. It was broadcast live in front of the largest audience ever assembled to that point: 60 million.

Nixon used the occasion to redefine American politics. By identifying himself with those who could relate to his wife’s ownership of “a respectable Republican cloth coat” and his daughter’s love of their puppy Checkers, he started to sever the national political debate away from substantive issues in favor of cultural issues. The Republicans could not seek to undo the support of America’s Middle Class for the pro-Middle Class policies initiated by FDR. So, they sought to get the Middle Class to support the Republican Party on the basis of values — and they sold values over policies. They could cater to policies that were in the real interests of the upper class, which fueled and controlled Republican politics, while winning votes from the Middle Class based on appeals to their values. Think of that what you want, but seen through my prism, that is one brilliant PR strategy.

The PR Campaign To Dupe America Today

In fact, Nixon’s strategy was so brilliant that the Democrats adopted it as well. And so has the news media. Let’s take a moment here for an interactive exercise: Everybody who has heard about the tax plans for each candidate, please raise your hands. What about their approach to education? OK. Now, those who have heard about the stance of each candidate on any issue that relates to values, regardless of what that issue/value may mean to your life (say, for example, how “disgusting” it may be for Hilary Clinton to need a bathroom break or the importance of Ted Cruz’s religious commitment) – will you please raise your hands? Gee. The duping of America is going strong.

Looking for some further proof? David Russell summarized the phenomenon in an article he contributed to The Hill: “Why do blue-collar workers vote against their economic interests?” He focuses on the phenomenon of former Speaker John Boehner (R- 8th District of Ohio). “What we have here,” he documents, “is a man who voted directly against the economic interests of his constituents but clearly in support of an issue of importance to his donors.” In other words, he duped his electorate into voting against their own interests or to not vote at all (only 23 percent of the eligible voters in his district elected him).

How Easy Is It To Participate In The Campaign To Dupe America? Real Easy. But Don’t Figure On Actually Accomplishing Anything Of Importance.

Using values as the premise of a PR campaign gives rise to a really difficult problem. Substantive issues need to be debated and solved by substantive actions. But value issues are totally different. For example, if there is going to be a decision based on the cost of a project, well, you start out by evaluating the cost. That’s a quantitative matter. So, getting the right facts should solve the problem.

But what about value-based issues? For example, what if the project in our example wasn’t about cost? What if, instead, the project accelerated the interests of those who are “green” or those who are in the fossil fuel industry? How do you solve that? You don’t. You end up in gridlock.

Value-based issues create industries. Just look, for example, how the debate for and against abortion has been shaped. Those who are for abortion rights define the issue according to the value of an individual’s choice; those who are opposed to abortion define it as an issue of the value of a human life as defined in religious terms. The two sides aren’t talking about the same thing. How can anybody expect them to agree? That’s why the issue of abortion has been a hot and divisive issue for decades. And that’s why advocacy organizations and lobbying and communications campaigns exist for both sides, creating careers and assignments in the hundreds of millions. Think anyone involved really wants there to be a winner? Or wouldn’t they prefer to keep the debate going?

So. This is our conclusion abut the PR Campaign to dupe America:

  •  Value-based debates lead to inaction and gridlock.
  • Value-based issues that resonate the most with voters win campaigns.
  • And, value-based issues create wealth for players on either side of any issue.

That’s where the Checkers Speech has led us, after 63 years. And, it looks like that is the trend that will continue – probably get worse. Something else we can thank (or blame) Richard Nixon for: The PR campaign to dupe America into defining what’s actually important continues. Just follow the current presidential campaigns. That’s the scary part.

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