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Don’t you just love being a demographic?

April 16, 2014

Sometimes I feel like a laboratory specimen, or a case file in a medical facility. Every time an election rolls around some strategist defines groups as though they are specimens or experiments.

It kind of reminds me of the time I volunteered in a hospital. Every morning, the charge nurse would gather all the staff and volunteers for a floor census review.

“There’s two gall bladders in 201 and 202, three post-hysterectomies in 204 and 205, and oh yes, there is a post-appendectomy in 205 as well.”

That’s what happens in election years, or even when writing legislation. Now women are being politically classified by their marital status. Let’s see I’m single, a woman, over 50 and therefore I’m a Democrat, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Now if you have read more than two paragraphs on this website you know that’s not true, but considering the amount of mail and calls I get from political pollsters and hucksters somebody thinks it ought to be true. I’m not sure what demographic the Republicans think I am, but I’m sure they’ve pigeon-holed me somewhere.

I’m a freelance writer, so I’ve done my share of marketing and PR pieces. I understand demographic sales targeting, and if you are selling shoes or jewelry, I totally agree with the concept.

In elections, not so much.

What’s even more disturbing is that this messaging isn’t being developed through face-to-face contact, it’s a computer model. Again, that’s OK if you are marketing a product. If your product is a high-dollar luxury  item, you obviously want to target your sales budget to people that can afford it.

And that’s what’s so disturbing about the politics of the present. The party campaign strategists are marketing a product.

I can see the back room pre-campaign strategy now. Everybody sits around a conference table and says “For this election cycle  we need one far-left (or right) candidate in this state, one more moderate one in that state, and let’s get twelve candidates that are good at connecting with single women too.”  Then they call up the people with the requisite credentials and tell them they are going to get money from the party for their campaigns if they want to run.

That sounds more like a procurement office than a group seriously considering the welfare of the entire United States. Oh wait! That’s because that’s exactly what it is.

I’m hardly blind to the business side of politics. I’ve been watching it for a lot longer than some strategists have been alive. Caveat emptor, and all that stuff.

What disturbs me is that the voters consistently buy these late-night sales pitch tactics and then whine that they were ripped off. The product didn’t deliver the promised performance. W-a-a-h!

Unfortunately there is no BBB or FTC to complain to in politics. You get the person you voted for, and that’s that. They don’t come with a warranty. Some of them don’t even seem to have an expiration date.

Just in case Mr. Preibus and Ms. Wasserman-Schultz  need a metric for a computer model, here’s how I buy something.

First I determine what it is I need, then I go out and find a dozen or so products that fit that model. But here is where I diverge from your demographic modeling.

I go out and look for reviews. In the case of a toaster, I’m going to see if it lives past the warranty, if it has good value-for-money comments, etc. If it doesn’t have any reviews, or it’s a new product from a brand I’ve had trouble with before, or if it’s just  a lousy product, then I don’t care if it has the slickest sales pitch in the world, I’m not buying.

 In the case of a candidate, I’m going to look at a voting record if they have one, or for groups they support, or press releases that might tell me what their traditional views have been. I think candidates deserve at least as much research as a toaster.

 Voters should vote for the person they feel is the best choice for the job, and the job is governance of  the United States, not a listing on the closest singles dating site or an online auction. Some research is required.

Sell me that kind of candidate and I’ll buy your pitch all day long. Try to sell me a demographically defined, computer created product with lousy reviews, and I’m just not in the market.

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