Thursday, December 3, 2015

Merry Voting

We have a wonderful gift giving tradition in our family. My grandmother gave each of her grandchildren some money to buy presents at the holidays. Her premise was that there’s as much (if not more) joy and satisfaction in being the gift giver rather than the receiver. It stuck and I’ve been a giver ever since.

In September I remember seeing the first holiday display go up in a store. People on social media bemoan the “early” start of the marketing and commercialization of the Christmas season. If nobody bought anything from that display until the beginning of December, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the displays would disappear until then. The marketplace is the decider.

“Black Friday” has become its own event – rather than just a description accounting people use to describe the day after Thanksgiving when many retailers move from being in the ‘red’ to being in the ‘black’. Now there’s Pre-Black-Friday sales and Black-Friday specials all throughout November. It’s a ridiculous concept – but people buy and buy and buy so soon there’ll be a monthly Black Friday event.

Communities were outraged when stores opened on Thanksgiving Day. And then they shopped and shopped and shopped. Guess what? More stores are now open on Thanksgiving Day. Some communities are banning the practice resulting in online sales surging.

Election 2016 officially began the day after President Obama was re-elected in 2012 and probably was unofficially underway for Mrs. Clinton and others before then. There was no break, no opportunity for a governing process to be attempted. It’s now one constant cycle of electioneering – as if it were Christmas year round. There’s plenty of complaint about it, but like the displays at the stores, we still engage and buy so the message is clear: we will participate.

Hopeful politicians lock up fundraising experts, local advocates and a slew of other elements of the ‘machine’ of becoming President years before any votes are cast. Candidates are branded and packaged and put under the proverbial tree.

It’s very expensive. The Presidential Election for 2016 may cost as much as $5 billion according to an article in The Hill. It’s not much of a stretch given that the 2012 White House run incurred just over $4 billion in costs.  If the estimate is right, it will be about $15 for every American. But not every American votes. In 2012 approx. 127 million votes were cast for President. If that same number voted again the candidates and their various PACs will be spending about $40 per vote.

How many of those votes are really up for grabs? Much of the U.S. is already set – whether it’s for the GOP candidate or the Democrat – they’re highly unlikely to change their opinion. In consumer terms, BrandLoyalty is when a consumer buys your product over and over – even to the point of paying more when there’s other options. (Apple is a prime example of a high profile company that has extreme Brand Loyalty.) Political parties have the same level of loyalty.

Elections (like marketers during the holiday season) is all about convincing that percentage of people who are willing to look at something other than what they’re used to. In commercial terms it can be upwards of 20% of buyers. In voting terms it’s 7% of the voters who represent less than 3% of the population. Reuters has put together an entire section about the Undecided Voter. 9 million people in 6 states actually control the 2016 Presidency.

All this noise and all this money aimed at a micro-minority of Americans. There has to be a better way.

My grandmother challenged the notion that I had about the holidays being all about me getting presents. It’s time for the rest of the country to challenge the idea that there’s only two parties and only two options for the Presidency. Until then, Merry Voting!

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