Meg Whitman's Campaign Spots

Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, is running for the Republican nomination for governor of California.  Armed with a considerable personal fortune, she shot out of the starting blocks early, inundating the airwaves--both radio and television--with advertising.  These spots are entirely content-free, total pablum, but that hardly makes them noteworthy; most campaign ads have lacked anything resembling substance at least since it was morning in America.  These do, however, possess one bit of fatuousness that is uniquely their own.
      
Echoing every other outsider who has ever sought elective office, she extols her own non-political credentials, and then says, by way of explaining what evils she intends to remedy and in what way her lack of political experience is an asset rather than a liability, "The professional politicians have been fighting in Sacramento for years."
      
What's wrong with this picture?  Where do the words "cognitive dissonance" come into play?
      
Well, the man she is hoping to replace, the current Republican governor, wasn't a professional politician either, was he?  In fact, he used precisely the same pitch when he first sought the office.  Far from being a pol, he was an actor and successful businessman before becoming governor.  He had spent his entire adult life, he assured us, solving practical problems in a practical way, unconstrained by ideology or partisanship.  He wasn't part of that venal Sacramento political culture, no sir; he was exactly what was needed to show those professional politicians a thing or two about how to do the people's business, yes sir.  And his tenure is now widely derided as an abject failure.  A view Meg Whitman's ad implicitly endorses.
      
She isn't, after all, aspiring to replace Pete Wilson or Jerry Brown or Gray Davis or some other battle-scarred political veteran;  if that were the case, the ad might just possess some resonance.  But she's aiming to take the reins from Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In effect, her ad is telling us she can remedy the mess in Sacramento because she brings to the task the purity of her inexperience.  The very claim made by the man who, as the ad itself appears to concede, presided over that self-same mess.
      
Perhaps a little re-tooling is in order.

Presented by

Erik Tarloff is a novelist, screenwriter, and journalist.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In