The American public is upset. All they’re getting from our President is the truth and after a year, it’s getting kind of hard to digest. Call in the marketing teams. The U.S. government needs a marketing makeover!
Just when I was ready to give the American population credit for recognizing substance over sound bytes, I have become increasingly aware of the media attention devoted to the Presidential drop in popularity credited specifically to Obama’s pragmatic and cool-headed response to the quagmire of issues that surfaced within the months preceding the change in administration.
It is no surprise that his popularity is down; any President’s approval ratings would be down given the groundwork that had been laid in the prior years and the decisions that were required to be made immediately to stop the bloodletting. A government funded rescue was already underway, the auto industry was in crisis, the unemployment rate was gathering speed, the terrorist threat had increased in volume, the military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iran were already in evolved states of unsatisfactory policy, and the healthcare debacle had been simmering for near a decade.
Many of these issues took on new twists when Obama took office. All of them have required urgent attention. These are issues that require dissection, discussion, council, collaboration and political navigation. Yet the media is now scolding Obama for the same attributes that I thought we overwhelmingly chose him for – thoughtful resolute problem solving and honest communications.
Instead of providing the vague sound bytes similar to those our previous administration took refuge under and utilized to a frustrating degree – and to which we ultimately came to characterize as a reflection of the inability to understand and resolve our problems – President Obama has provided thoughtful arguments and insights that give context and a narrative assessment of the factors coloring the discussion. He doesn’t hide behind rhetoric but creates an open dialogue built on refreshing candor and submission to the facts. He doesn’t leave us with vague promises but honestly transmits that the answers are not clear. And that seems to be the ironic downfall of his popularity.
Hillary Clinton was herself a re-vitalizing candidate during the presidential campaign process because she was also knowledgeable and engaged in real conversations. But she was never able to package herself quite the way the Obama campaign did. In an ironic twist of fate, it turns out that the brilliant “Yes we can” slogan, complete with its now iconic imagery of Obama’s silhouette emblazoned with the words “HOPE” across a red and blue background, was the rallying cry necessary to get the “change” president elected..
What the media seems to be telling us is that as it turns out, we are not a nation of intelligent minds hungry for justice and the truth, we are a population who prefers pre-packaged messages that we can digest and track to. Much like our high school football games, we are not looking for true leadership but rather cheerleaders with a microphone to lead us in familiar chants that will create community and a spirit of collegial agreement, regardless of the coach’s ability. We don’t want difficult facts and realities. We want someone to act as our spiritual leader, do the digesting for us and then provide a singular message that we can believe in, regardless of its alignment with reality.
As it turns out, the American population and the media that represent us, are looking for a marketing engine to package the President’s cool discernment of the facts and craft a short emotional story that we can “believe” in. There are a significant number of pundits who openly (and rightly) derided the increasingly delusional rhetoric used by the last administration in the face of sometimes totally opposing factual realities. And yet we are now asking for short messages that demonstrate a “clear vision” so that we will feel better about the uncertainty of our future. We finally came to grips with the fact that we had been mislead from 2000-2008, but in our own desire for a fairy tale with a near-term happy ending, we are once again looking for someone to just make us feel better.
Can we handle honesty or do we just want another “Yes we can”?