PORTLAND, ORE. — As I watch the cavalcade of ads for George W. Bush and John Kerry, it seems obvious we're approaching a tipping point in the presidential selection process. Somewhere in the future, the boundaries separating politics, entertainment, and advertising will vanish.
No one should be surprised in this era of societal deregulation. Corporations prefer consolidation over competition. Trends overwhelm traditions. Ideas are evaluated on marketing potential rather than merit.
In a highly commercialized culture, the notion of candidates as commodities seems totally reasonable. Eventually we'll reach the stage of complete socioeconomic convergence. Think of it as campaigns without borders. Money will flow into the process as part of the business cycle. Instead of issuing policy statements, office seekers will define themselves with product endorsements.
If it happens tomorrow, the resulting TV spots will look something like this:
FADE IN - A man's face reflected in a bathroom mirror. He holds up a shaving implement and speaks forcefully. "I'm John Kerry, and when it comes to leading this great nation, a president doesn't have a moment to waste.
"That's why I start every day with the Gillette Mach 3 triple-blade razor.
"It combines technology with efficiency. The ergonomic handle design and lubricating strip work in tandem to give me a close shave with fewer strokes. As president, that's the kind of performance standard I'll bring to the Oval Office. Gillette - the best a man can get. Elect me, and help give America the best it can get!"
FADE IN - A customer holding a lunch tray sits down, unwraps a hamburger, smiles, and turns to the camera. "Thiz a nice feelin' sittin' here, havin' a friendly meal, got my Double Whopper, fire-grilled garden salad, all prepared fresh an' usin' quality ingredients. I'm George Dubya Bush, and here at Burger King there's choices, and freedom. I mean, the all-white-meat chicken tenders - perfect example of what I'm talkin' about.
"You can have a five- or eight-piece serving, got yer choice of barbecue, ranch, or honey mustard dippin' sauce. Have it your way. Good idea. Proud idea. I want America to have it our way, and with me as your president, we will!"
FADE IN - A suburbanite holding a water hose with a bottle sprayer fitted onto one end is wetting down flowers and shrubbery. "Hi, I'm Dick Cheney, and if you haven't seen me in the news lately, it's because I like to spend time out of the limelight, enjoying blooms and blossoms with the help of Miracle-Gro plant food. The special feeder attaches to my hose and dispenses what the plants need in a steady flow that's easy to control. It takes the same kind of steady, controlled leadership to keep our country growing and prospering. That's what you'll get by voting Republican.
"President Bush will bring a harvest of benefits. And if he ever needs help, I'm standing by. Right here in the Rose Garden!"
Final sellout or ultimate synergy? Call it what you want.
I just wonder how many Americans will buy into it without a second thought.