Wednesday, October 19, 2011

American Marketers for NONE OF THE ABOVE (Satire. Maybe.)

American politics have slumped to a new low.  The Democrats wage class warfare.  The Republicans engage in inflexible and deleterious partisanship.  On the fringes, Tea Partiers sound like angry drunks and the Occupy Wall Streeters sound like potheads.

What’s the problem?  Influence of money?  Callous disregard for liberties or human rights?  Outright corruption and lying?  Pish tosh, I say (disclosure: neither I nor any other actual English speaker really says “pish tosh”)!  The problem stems from bad data.

Not only will I explain this problem, I will suggest the solution after the break.

Let’s address the obvious problem: voters really only have two choices when it comes to voting.  A lot of voters, however, don’t completely agree with the Democrats OR the Republicans.  So what do they do on Election Day?  They either vote for a party they don’t totally like, vote for a marginal party or, most frequently, decline to vote at all.  This situation means bad data based on a false choice situation.  And bad data, as we Translinear marketers know, produce a host of sins.

Let’s take it out of the political arena for a moment.  Let’s imagine that shoppers only had a choice between Coke and Pepsi (disclosure: yes, I am intentionally choosing two very similar beverages as a sly wink to the notion that our political parties have more in common than they admit) and maybe a smattering of local brands.  Sales results would crown Coke or Pepsi the winner, but would they really indicate what people want?  Sure, Faygo might prevail in Michigan and Cheerwine in the Carolinas, but neither of these would amount to meaningful national trends.  

The analysts, and the market, would continue to focus on the red can vs. the blue can.  Coke and Pepsi really wouldn’t know what the American consumer wants, just what she is willing to tolerate.  There would be no 7-Up, no Hires Root Beer, no Sunkist yearning to breathe free.  I mean, yearning to release CO2 into the air.

In reality, of course, we have a rich and varied beverage market, carbonated and still.  Diet and regular.  Questionable flavors and traditional.  Choice reigns.  The consumer wins.

Back to politics.  After voting day, we really only know which party Americans can tolerate more.  Sure, the Greens may get a few votes in Vermont and the Tea Party in Arizona, but political analysts generally dismiss them as protest votes.  Some analysts regard turnout as a measure in and of itself; non-voting suggests lack of interest in the candidates or issues.  However, this assumption further undermines the veracity of the data.  People choose not to vote for many reasons, not just because they don’t like the candidates.  And when we assume, we make...well, insert your own politician joke here.

In theory, Parliamentary politics, with its in-built incentives to form multiple parties would fix the problems.  But to quote noted political analyst Eric “Otter” Stratton, “that could take years and cost millions of lives.”  We need simpler and more immediate action.

Therefore, I propose that every election include a “NONE OF THE ABOVE” option.  People should have the right to visit the polls and check “NONE OF THE ABOVE” to voice their displeasure in an organized way.  Sure, we could start with write-in votes, but to make a real impact, we’d need to change laws across the country to allow “NONE OF THE ABOVE.”

With “NONE OF THE ABOVE,” politicians could indeed see how their ideas stack against a real alternative.  Sure, you may have beaten the other guy, but did you beat “NONE OF THE ABOVE?”  Politicians might get a better picture of what people actually think.  

For example: say a Republican won a gubernatorial election with 51% of the vote while the Democrat got 24%.  The winner would conclude that he was twice as worthy as his opponent.  Not so fast, governor-elect.  Let’s say that “NONE OF THE ABOVE” took the remainder, 25%.  First, it would tell the loser that he should probably try another line of work.  However, it would also remind the winner that he does not have all the answers.  So, one idiot gone, another potential idiot warned.

Yes, better data, with “NONE OF THE ABOVE” will forthwith take the idiots out of politics.

Who’s with me?

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