Old Horses and Coat Tails

posted by Chanoch Ne’eman – Revi’i 18 Kislev 5775 Jerusalem (c)

On Parties, Branding and Politics

On July 27, 1848, Congressman Abraham Lincoln responded on the House floor to opposing party accusations that his party had put their old leader out to root like an old horse, and also had deserted their principles and were taking shelter under General Taylor’s military coat tail.

Lincoln pointed out that the Democrats themselves had also put their Martin Van Buren,  “out to root like an old horse.” And as far as coat tails, he pointed out that the Democrats had for some five  presidential elections been riding on the ample military coat tail of General Andrew Jackson; always trying to associate their current candidate with that iconic figure.

This always happens in democratic countries. Most voters don’t really have a clue what any given candidate or party have done or will do. Therefore, all types of ridiculous attempts to dress up a party or candidate with a certain image take place. In contemporary marketing parlance, this is called “branding”.

You can find today ample instances of this phenomenon within the Israeli political landscape. And plenty of old horses and people trying to ride their coat tails too.

A few weeks ago, before the decision to disband the Knesset, I heard on the radio that the Prime Minister was thinking of trying to convince plony and almony,  former MK’s, to come back to his party list if there should be elections. What a joke I thought. A testament to the superficial, branding-style politics encouraged by our current party-list system. These two fellows’ main attraction, it seems, is that they happen to be the sons of famous underground leaders. They could, the radio reported in the name of the PM, help restore to his party a feeling of “the good old days”.

This is pure branding. Because both these gentlemen in question have both left that “Grand Old Party” in the past. Bringing them “back” has little to do, in my opinion, with who they are, but with the hope of creating the illusion that the current party is somehow contiguous with those leaders of old. That’s a cute hope, and it might work somewhat, especially if this party in question is careful to do like a certain Sephardi religious party and provide free rides from the age-old homes to the polling stations on election day.

As to these sons of old horses themselves, I can only say, in marketing metaphor, this is not your father’s Oldsmobile. One of them, is the son of a former PM, who was known as a great orator. But when this son tries to affect his father’s speaking style, he comes off as simply an angry man shouting loudly. His father sat on the opposition side for 29 years, and then was surprised when he became PM. The son, a number of years ago, formed his own party, and named it after his father’s original party. When this party, (which I foolishly voted for), got much less seats than he expected, this son announced he was disgusted and leaving politics, and did not even sit in the Knesset he was elected to. Not your father’s Oldsmobile.

The other son MK, jumped ship about the same time to join an old horse – bulldozer candidate who started a party quite different in values from the old Irgun values. They went on to evacuate Gush Katif. But hey, he does have that last name. Let’s market that. Who is going to remember ten years ago?

Scanning the political landscape further, we take notice that marketing marvels are not limited to any end of the political spectrum. There is a party bearing the ultimate branding name. I do not like to use actual names usually, as I learned from my rabbis, because maybe the people did teshuva since then, but have to do it here to illustrate the point. “The Movement”. You know, “the movement,” everyone is doing it. What the movement is about is wholly undefined. Perhaps if we were to try to put a finger on it, we could call it, “The Movement to Secure a Government Job for Plonit”. Or, more generically, “The Movement for the Advancement of Foolish Blond Israeli Women.”

This party’s leader is also the progeny of a famous underground leader. Now I know they say, “the apple does not fall too far from the tree”. But sometimes, the apple just falls to the ground and rots there. I know, I am a gardener, I see it all the time.

I wish we could just choose individuals to represent us, and not these silly party lists. May Hashem help us to go in that direction, Amen.

(This was published on my The Times of Israel blog on Dec. 10)

 

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