|Voice of the People
by Chuck Muth"Buy Volvos. They're boxy, but they're good. We know they're not sexy, but this is not a smart time to be sexy anyway with so many new diseases around. Be safe instead of sexy."
hus the premise of the 1990 comedy Crazy People, starring Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah: What would happen if you injected truth into advertising?
Moores character was a stressed-out ad executive who suddenly began writing starkly truthful ads like the one above for Volvo automobiles. His boss (actor Paul Reiser), naturally, thought Moore was nuts. Heres the exchange the two had when Moore first presents his new-style advertising ideas:
Reiser: "Are you out of your $%&*# mind?"
Moore: "Hey, I thought this would appeal to a no-nonsense type consumer."
Reiser: "Who the hell ever heard of advertising that a car is boxy?"
Moore: "But they are boxy. An intelligent buyer knows that. Hey, lets not fool the public anymore. Lets not lie. Lets level with America!"
Reiser: "We cant level, you crazy bastard. Were in advertising!"
Reiser then has Moore committed to a mental institution. To make a longand rather funnymovie short, Moores ads accidentally get published and the public loves them.
Now, imagine the same conversationonly this time, substitute a political candidate for Moores character, and a modern-day political consultant for Reiser: "We cant level with the voters, you crazy fool. Were in politics!"
Then along comes Jesse Venturanow Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesotawho last year had the gall to level with the voters and to give them the straight, unvarnished truth. And the voters responded. Boy, did theyespecially those who, out of frustration, had all but given up on politics.
Could the American electorate, especially after seven years under the likes of Bill Clinton, actually be ready for truth in politics?
When I think of that Moore/Reiser exchange, I cant help but think back to when George Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
Dont get me wrong. I love Clarence Thomas. But for Bush to go in front of the public and contend that Thomas was the most qualified jurist in the countryand that race had nothing to do with his nominationinsulted the intelligence of the American people. After all, Thomas was only 43 years old at the time and had been a federal judge for just two years.
How stupid or gullible did Bush think we were? Did he honestly believe anyone in the country would buy his contention that he wasnt replacing the only black member on the Supreme Court with another black?
Now toss in the past seven years under serial prevaricator Bill Clinton, and the public just may, indeed, be ready for some straight, truthful talk from their representatives. Consider that exchange between Gov. Ventura and the single-mother co-ed who wanted to know why Ventura and the government werent helping her more. Venturas response: "Its not my problem that you became a single parent."
Ventura later said, "We cant legislate against every stupid thing people will do" and added the government could not afford to continue providing "nearly unlimited resources to anyone who faces adversity, who lives with circumstances they brought about through their own decisions, or who lives with consequences of choices to act illegally. The free ride is over."
Double wow. Imagine that. Telling people that they are responsible for the consequences of their own actions and decisions. Straight, honest and truthful talk like that would have gotten a politician run out of town on a rail just a few years ago. But today, many voters now appear attracted to such straight-talking candidates.
This could present a tremendous opportunity for Republicans in 2000. Saddled with Bill Clinton around their necks, Democrats have foregone any possibility of being perceived as truthful on just about anything. But Republicans can still take advantage of this growing sentiment in the electorate.
To do so, however, will require them to do something they havent been willing, or able, to do since the 1994 "Contract With America"level with the American people. As a party, theyll fare no better than the Democrats in the present environment if they, for example, continue selling themselves as the "party of smaller government"even as government continues to grow bigger and faster under their control than it did under the Democrats.
The people are not stupid, and they wont reward a party that treats them as if they are. The GOP congressional losses in 1998 had nothing to do with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Disenchanted grassroots Republicans looked at that abomination of a budget bill three weeks before the election and, out of disgust, simply stayed home.
Fast-talking, mealy-mouthed political rhetoric will capture neither the imagination nor the votes of the great numbers of disenchanted Americans in the hinterlands. The election of new, independent, straight-talkin candidates like Jesse Ventura could be the big story of 2000.
Truth in politics. What a concept. You know, it might just be crazy enough to work.NJ
Chuck Muth (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chairman of the Nevada Republican Liberty Caucus.