Monday, March 8, 2010

The Schlitz-ing of American politics

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) has a great article in the Washington Examiner this weekend.  The article is about how America’s political class has watered itself down over the years. Reynolds illustrates his point by comparing America’s political class to Schlitz beer. 
... In fact, when I think of the federal government's brand now, I think of Schlitz beer. Schlitz was once a top national brew. But, in search of short-term gains, it began gradually reducing its quality in tiny increments to save money, substituting cheaper malt, fewer hops and "accelerated" brewing for its traditional approach.
Each incremental decline was imperceptible to consumers, but after a few years, people suddenly noticed that the beer was no good anymore. Sales collapsed, and a "Taste My Schlitz" campaign designed to lure beer drinkers back failed when the "improved" brew turned out not to be any better. A brand image that had been accumulated over decades was lost in a few years, and it has never recovered.
The federal government, alas, finds itself in much the same position. The political class sold its legitimacy off in drips and drabs. As "smart politics" has come over the past decades to mean not persuasion but the practice of legerdemain, the use of political deals, cover from a friendly press apparat and taking advantage of voters' rational ignorance, the governing classes have managed to achieve things that would surely have failed had the people known what was going on.
But though each little trick may have slipped by the voters, the voters have nonetheless noticed that the ultimate product isn't what it used to be. The end result, as with Schlitz, is a tarnished brand. And rescuing tarnished brands is hard.
It gets worse. Not long ago, the federal government enjoyed a stellar reputation for honesty and competence. Now, according to a recent CNN poll, three-quarters of Americans think federal officials aren't honest . (There's no separate survey here on what the "political class" thinks, but I suspect that its numbers would be sunnier, but still appalling, as above). So what do we do with a federal government that many voters think is illegitimate and dishonest?
I completely agree that America’s political class has watered itself down to the point of being a joke. Just look at the Health Care Summit where a lawmaker actually tried to make the case for taking over 1/6 of the economy based on a  possibly fictitious account of a woman using her dead sister’s teeth.  However, as the old saying goes, it takes two to Tango. We the electorate share some of the blame too.

Keeping with the Schlitz analogy, the electorate has allowed its taste buds for superb beer (i.e. quality politicians) to grow course. We cheerfully drank the watered down beer the political class was selling for far too long. Too many of us have forgotten that we are the actual bosses in this nation. Too many of use have taken a cynical attitude towards politics and have used that cynicism as an excuse to tune out of the process. Too many of us have allowed ourselves to accept lower standards in our politicians all for the sake of the mighty D’s and R’s after a lawmaker’s name.

Fortunately, the Tea Parties that have sprung up are reminding us what quality beer taste like. They are pointing out the fact that the political class is serving the swill of a cheap imported beer. The big question is does the American electorate still have a taste for full body beer?


Christopher said...

Being an American of Irish heritage (not Irish-American) I can attest to the likeing of a 'full bodied beer' which is a metaphor for the United States Constitution in this case.

That said I find it objectionable of hyfenated terms.

Clifton B said...


Go mbeannaí Dia duit, my Irish friend. I too have no use for the hyphenated nonsense and prefer a strong Constitutional brew.

Christopher said...

Clifton, If I may use your name, I must remind you of your faux pas. To quote you "My Irish friend".

Friend I am indeed and wish to remain so, but again I am AMERICAN FIRST AND FOREMOST.

I love my Irish heritage and relatives but my heart remains American and soul to God.

Clifton B said...


I stand corrected, my fellow American!

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