Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Mislead Voters Lesson #2: What's in a Name?

With the election only two weeks away, more ads are hitting the airways every day. Needless to say, there is a lot of money changing hands this time of year. People are donating to the campaigns of candidates they support in hope that it will lead to increased ad presence and a greater chance at winning the seat. But people aren't the only ones donating. There are a number of corporations and special interest groups that are also putting money into the races. But at the same time many of these corporations or groups may not want their name publicly aired on the ads that they fund. After all, they still want to maintain their customer base regardless of consumers' political leanings. So what's a corporation to do?

Give money to other groups that will put out the ads in their own names. And boy, what names they are! Every day I turn on the TV I see ads from groups like MN Forward, Minnesota's Future, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Americans Against Food Taxes, etc. That brings me to the first rule in naming your political organization.

1. Pick a Name That Few Would Disagree With

Who doesn't want to move forward? Who doesn't care about the future? Who doesn't want their state to be better? Who wants all their food taxed? No one! So you've won the first battle in putting forth something people can relate to.

2. Pick a Name That Sounds Far More Optimistic Than Any of Your Ads Will Ever Be

Hopefully people will be so inspired to dream about the future and how we should move forward after seeing your name that they will forget that the entire previous 30 seconds were spent trying to scare the hell out of them. After all, Minnesota's future looks bright as long as we don't elect the drunk driver, the erratic unreliable one, or the Democrat/Republican in Republican/Democrat clothing who will only enact policies that will destroy everything you hold dear.

3. Pick a Name That Sounds Like You're Just a Group of Average Americans Who Bought An Ad

Americans Against Food Taxes is a great example of name that achieves exactly that. Sounds like people are finally standing up to The Man and telling him to leave their food alone! Wait. What? What do you mean the group is primarily comprised of companies that produce/sell unhealthy high sugar content beverages with little nutritional value that would be subject to these proposed taxes? If that's the case, I'm sure they would have disclosed that in the ad. Which brings me to the next rule...

4. Make People Work to Find Out Who You Actually Are

Many people today have the attention span of a gnat. (I'll be shocked if they are still reading this post!) So most will never discover who is funding your group if finding out requires more than three steps. Hide it in a fancy website where they will be too distracted pressing other buttons telling them why you are on their side or looking at beautiful pictures of happy families that look just like theirs to notice anything else. Even better, simply leave it on your IRS disclosure form. Who looks up that? They'll never know that the Republican Governors Association is behind Minnesota's Future. They're too busy telling their neighbor about how erratic Mark Dayton is to bother looking at some stuffy old tax forms.

5. Fill Your Website With Undefined Terms

Rather than have the "about us" section of your website filled with detailed information, I would recommend you bust out your political ad thesaurus. For example, replace "Group of large corporations" with "Group of job creators." "Corporate board" becomes "Families just like yours." "Life long partisan political strategists" can be "Your neighbors and coworkers." I don't know about you, but I'm feeling better already.

6. Take Your Issues Directly From a Single Political Party While Insisting You're Non-Partisan

Feel free to cut and paste the issues section directly from the local Republican or DFL website. That won't matter as long as you don't tell people you did. Also make sure to pepper your site with the terms "non-partisan," "no political affiliation," "values," and "the state's best interest." Those terms will make people feel so good that they'll notice neither the blatant cut and paste nor the fact that all of your ads support only one political party.

7. Mention Things That Make People Feel All Warm and Fuzzy

It's even better if those things mentioned also leave visions of "Leave it to Beaver" era security and morality dancing in people's heads.  Children - Values - Our Community - Small Businesses - Freedom - Families - Prosperity. People love those things. And if they think you love those things, they will love you.

I hope that helps you get well on your way to starting your very own political group. As long you follow these guidelines it's sure to succeed.

This message has been brought to you by Americans For Children With Adorable Rescued Kittens.

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