Election 2012: Commitment-Phobia
I'm a big fan of that show "The Millionaire Matchmaker" which used to run on Bravo.
If you haven't seen it, every week Patty the Jewish matchmaker helped a socially challenged millionaire find "true love."
The show was alternately agonizing and hilarious as we watched people who seemed functional in their professional life (mostly) let down their guard and reveal their personal variety of crazy.
The natural conclusion from watching that show - it's amazing that two people can ever be together. And when a few couples really hit it off, that rare magic lit up the room.
I relate to Patty because I am Jewish, also raised in New Jersey, and my aunt is a part-time matchmaker for Orthodox Jewish people. My aunt thinks pretty much the same way as Patty.
In fact I think you can say that branding and matchmaking have a lot in common because what else are you doing but packaging a person so that another person will find them appealing? With the caveat that what's inside the package has to be real - otherwise the marriage won't last.
Most of the time when people approached Patty, there were three reasons they could not commit:
- "Too crazy" - needed serious therapy.
- The reality of commitment didn't work for them.
- They weren't willing to settle.
It's that last part that brings to mind Election 2012. I get the feeling that the marriage prospects here, on both sides - the electorate and the candidates - are not great. For all of the above reasons:
- Serious therapy: Both political parties give the impression of being too extreme in terms of their influence on the candidates. My impression is that this has led a lot of people to declare themselves "Independent" or "Undecided" where normally they would clearly be on one side or the other. Frequently I find myself shaking my head at the things being said on both sides. Not necessarily by the candidates, but from a communication standpoint the supporter and the candidate are the same.
- Commitment issues: I have a lot of demands in my life and I'm just a regular person. So I can understand if the candidates feel more pressure than a normal person can bear. But I can't ever remember an election where both of them seem weary during the campaign season. Is it me, or does it almost seem like neither of them want to be there, fighting this fight? The contrast between the candidates and their supporters points this up in a most striking way. You can love or hate Stephanie Cutter, but when she gets on camera defending the President, you can feel her energy and commitment and zeal. Same with Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (the Republican communication types are not memorable enough for me to do a parallel comparison.) The energy should be with the candidates, and it doesn't feel there.
- Don't Want To Settle: Do you remember that '80s show "Family Ties" with Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton? How much he loved President Reagan? That's the kind of emotion people should be feeling for the candidates, but don't seem to. I can't tell you beans about President Reagan's policies, but I think rah-rah-rah at the mention of the name. Same with Hillary Clinton - I just want to do the happy dance at the thought of her ever running for President. Neither of these candidates generates a happy dance. Just that feeling of being tired - and like you're getting old - and like sometimes happens with single people, they choose the best one out there rather than be alone. (In this case, we have to choose.)
I guess at the end of the day, the bottom line is that you have to care. I feel like the candidates and the public do - but the difficulties are very great, and it's almost like we're in panic mode that we can't handle it. So we're getting numb.
Everybody knows that the country has some serious challenges on its plate - to put it mildly. I don't think anybody feels like either candidate or either party has a monopoly on the answers. Or possibly, frighteningly, any real answers at all.
This is not to say there are no ideas. The problem is that the public has to buy candidates' ideas in a set - not a la carte. And that ideology does not allow for the individualization that is mainstream America - the hyper-customized approach we need. Again, remember that we are people who can order fifteen thousand kinds of coffee with cream at Starbucks; we don't like a one-size-fits-all political approach.
Furthermore, all of us are smart. We understand that ideas wrapped up in ideologies that become platforms and slogans are not a substitute for solutions. And during this frantic political season, what seems lacking most of all are people capable of being married.
What I mean by this: Neither the candidates nor the public seem excited about the commitment this election represents. We're not going to get instant gratification either way; it's not going to be fun; and everybody is going to lose something based on the ideology and constituents each side represents.
May G-d grant us wisdom here...courage and the ability to see past old-fashioned thinking. So we can take care of each other, the most important priority of all.
Other Posts by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
- Andrew Allison
- Andrew Krzmarzick
- Anthony Zacharzewski
- Candi Harrison
- Carl Haggerty
- Craig Thomler
- Dave Briggs
- David Eaves
- Elizabeth Ross-Harrison
- Emma Mulqueeny
- Greg Palmer
- Gwynne Kostin
- Ingrid Koehler
- Jackson Pollock
- Jared Elosta
- John Gray
- Justin Herman
- Kit Plummer
- Lauri Stevens
- Liz Azyan
- Marc Gunther
- Melissa Tullio
- Mike Kujawski
- Noel Hatch
- Oliver Bell
- Paige Craig
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- Richard Fahey
- Sara Cope
- Stephen Morse
- Steve Radick
- Susan Gardner