Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Packing a lot of chewy conservative goodness into 16 words

This morning, the Crooks and Liars blog page has an ad for a front group called Generation Hope:

Two things struck me about this ad. First, it describes the USPS as run by "Government Bureaucrats;" second, by implication it invites the reader to agree that anything run by "Government Bureaucrats" is by definition a bad thing.

Taking those in reverse order, are Americans really unhappy with the USPS? There's the civic ritual of bitching about postage price bumps every couple of years, but other than that, I think the worst you could say is that most Americans enjoy the luxury of taking it for granted.

(If Americans really cared that much about the price of a stamp, first class rates could come way down if by instituting a small number of standard dimensions for envelopes, rather than insisting on our god-given right to put a stamp on a coconut if we damn well feel like it. Standardized dimensions for first class mail is one of the reasons that mail costs less to send in Japan. But if someone tried to tell Americans that they can't wrap a claw-hammer with a cut-up grocery bag and drop it in the corner mailbox, you'd have FOX's weeping madman calling it a Stalinist takeover plot by that evening.)

The second striking thing about the ad, though, is that the USPS isn't run by "Government Bureaucrats." Hasn't been for almost four decades.

The USPS created during Nixon's first term, in 1970, as an independent agency. It hasn't been funded by tax dollars since the early 1980s. The law creating the USPS specifically declares it to be an "independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States,"

So, comes the question: Who are these Generation Hope people, anyway, who manage to work a doubtful assumption and a large error of fact into a single 16-word ad?

Hm. "Doubtful assumptions?" "Large errors of fact?" The question almost answers itself, doesn't it?

I followed the links, so you don't have to. According to its home page, Generation Hope "engages, informs and empowers young Americans with facts on the hot topics and political issues impacting 'Generation Y'." It's an offshoot of the League of American Voters, a conservative advocacy group describing itself as "Leading the Fight to Stop Obama Care."

(The ad was placed at C&L by Google Ads, which places ads according to keywords found at the site. Google Ads can be comically indifferent to what's being said about the content, leading to oddities like this.)

Generation Y is the loosey-goosey demographic category including those Americans born between the late 1970s and late 1990s.

This ad's target--Generation Y'ers--is a cohort that never knew the US Post Office when it was a cabinet-level part of the government. For them, it's always been an independent entity (albeit one with a state-granted monopoly on delivering first-class mail). So the Operation Hope attempt to use the USPS as the boogie man isn't likely to spook them much. In truth, Americans of all ages have probably long-since forgotten whether the USPS is independent or government-run.

In fact, if you really put the question to them that way--do you want your health care run like the post office?--I imagine a lot of people would like to see health care work like the mail: You buy stamps for a fixed price and use them when you want, you leave your mail outside your door or at any of several drop points in your neighborhood, and it magically disappears and winds up at its destination a few days later. You don't need an appointment. You won't get billed later. You won't have to call customer service to find out why it never arrived or was mis-routed. It all works seamlessly, and almost invisibly. And you can never lose your right to use the mail.

Hell, I'd love to have my health care work like the mail. Where do I sign up?

I've written before about the inability of modern conservatives to understand how the world looks to anyone but themselves. This ad's another example, I think. It's a half-expressed assumption that all conservatives currently agree with, wrapped in a falsehood that only a conservative would care enough to concoct, sent out to motivate an audience that is unlikely to get it.

1 comment:

Chuck Butcher said...

The saving grace of today's conservatives is that they really are the intellectual equivelants of Sarah Palin, the drawback is the 25% or so of voters that also match that description.