Etch A Sketch 2012

Etch A Sketch 2012

April 22nd, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

With the passage of time, technological and mechanical innovation, and consumer desires and choices, certain items of our culture become obsolete or are dramatically re-engineered.

An old, wooden "ice box" that once held a block of ice and revolutionized the food industry became the basis for the refrigerator. Today, whether it's our iPad, our laptop or smart-phone, written communication is instantaneous and mobile.

In 1960, a hand-held red rectangle with two white knobs on the front used to guide a hidden stylus that moved gray aluminum powder was introduced to the toy market. According to Ohio Art, Inc., the Etch A Sketch was such a favorite that it was introduced into the National Toy Hall of Fame during that museum's inaugural year of 1998, and it made Time magazine's list of "All-Time Greatest Toys." Its appeal was in its utility; once one tired of an image, just a quick shake and the screen was ready for the artist to start anew.

Recently, this classic toy resurfaced in presidential politics. The idea by the political advisor was to address a different strategy that would be employed by his candidate after the Republican primary to appeal to a broader audience. Instead, the staffer made this statement: "You hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

Despite the fact that the quote was made by a senior advisor for Mitt Romney, it could have been made by any number of politicians of any partisan stripe. This simple four-sentence quote reveals a few facts that should disturb the electorate on both sides of the aisle.

Elections now are about the popularity of a message and the candidate as a person, disregarding the truth, one's experience and record, or lack thereof. The idea of simply "shaking" up and "restarting" one's message to fit the audience makes an obvious implication: a candidate with this approach is willing to say anything and change statements to fit the moment. In this practice, it's clear that winning at all costs is not healthy to the public to be served or to the dignity of the office pursued.

A second fact of the Etch A Sketch world of politics reveals that voters, sadly in the majority, have not rejected such tactics, void of principle and thought. Instead, the message accepted may not be grounded in a record of performance or even fact. It's an act of marketing, just as one would receive the message of selling laundry detergent or a microfiber cloth with all sorts of inflated claims and promises via flash, appeal and glitzy ads.

There is no argument that the mechanics and "science" of politics have borne out a model to follow during primary elections and general elections in both political parties. The current approach in selecting our elected officials, however, has devolved to a reality that we're actually buying a packaged image, measured carefully by consultants and pollsters with the accepted notion that the message is only as applicable as the audience to which it's offered. It could change at the next campaign stop.

In the knowledge-based society that surrounds us with wireless connectivity and an abundance of devices that expand our intellectual horizons, we're content, in 2012, to use the Etch A Sketch approach in politics: shake-shake and reset until we hear that which tickles our ears.

American and her voters deserve an upgrade.