Thursday, April 8, 2010

Palin, Bachmann, Rockitics, and Petters

Rockitics in Minneapolis
So yesterday Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann appeared together at the Minneapolis Convention Center before a rock concert crowd reminiscent of Obama’s 2008 Target Center appearance. What do we take away from the event?

First, they have learned from Obama. If Bill Clinton and Jesse Ventura were classic politainers who mastered the art of combining politics and entertainment (politainment) then Obama understood how politicians needed to be rock stars to excite the crowds and generate media events. Rockitics is what he perfected. He understood how to use multimedia venues such as social nertworks and Twitter to hype himself and his speeches and rallies further did that.

Politicians as rockitcans simply understood that one of the basic rules of politics is that selling candidates is no more than selling beer–it is creating image, a message, or a narrative, and using multiple opportunities to market the message. Being a rock star with political rallies that feel like concerts venues is simply another way of doing that.
Palin and Bachmann in their respective ways understand that. Palin has mastered the art of the continuous 15 minutes of fame. She is never outside of the public eye, pursuing constant media attention on Fox news, in her own shows, her book tour, and whatever else she does. Similarly, Bachmann has done the same with her multiple appearances. Both have also carved an interesting role for themselves as spokespersons for the Tea Party wing of the GOP. They both say highly inflammatory statements that make Democrats cringe and excite the Tea Party people. Both understand that media coverage is about the outrageous–say the most controversial things and you get covered. No different than Ozzie biting the head off a bat. It was stupid but everyone remembers. Palin and Bachmann understand this and use it to their advantage. Moreover, and the troubling part of all this is that often times their comments are simply and factually wrong, but it does not matter. Politics is a narrative and they have a simple narrative that appeals to many of the faithful.

The real issue will be whether their rock concerts can go mainstream? In the Bachmann case, her district is conservative and there is little chance Democrats can unseat her now. Their hope is to tie her down and then hope redistricting either eliminates one seat in MN (hers) or they can redraw lines and make her vulnerable in 2012. My prediction, if Bachmann is redistricted out in 2012 watch her to run against Klobuchar in the senate and get waxed. Otherwise, she runs against Franken in 2014. For now, Bachmann is safe.

Palin may have high name recognition but one wonders if the swing voters thing she is any more qualified to be President now than she was in 08. I doubt that. She has done little to demonstrate mastery of the issues, preferring to run as a 21st century member of the “know nothing” party.
Sean Hannity suggested it would be “kinda cool” to see a Palin-Bachmann 2012 ticket. A ticket yes to excite the base, no to winning.

The biggest loser yesterday? Pawlenty. The Palin-Bachmann event shows how little excitement there is for him and how dim his prospects.

Petters’ Sentence
Tom Petters gets 50 year for his fraud with parole no soon than 41 years. With it unlikely than he prevails on appeal, Petters never sees freedom again. How do we assess the sentence?
Certainly the sentence is less than the 300+ years the prosecution wanted and more than the 4 years his attorneys requested. Fifty years sounds like a compromise, but it is one significantly dictated by the federal sentencing guidelines which determine prison time by the number and types of crimes committed. In imposing the sentence the quality of mercy was not strained and it did not rain down upon Petters. He is paying for his crimes, but so is the public.

Think about it. It will cost about $50,000 per year to incarcerate him so do the math and taxpayers will pay $2.5 million to punish him. Yes, losing his freedom is punishment, but his acts cost us already $3.6 billion. If Petters was smart enough to swindle all this money might it not make sense to think he might be smart enough this make this kind of money and payoff the victims? Prison in some ways makes no sense, it does little to undo the damage he has done. However we live in such a “lock them up and throw away the key” society that we think jailing everyone is the answer for everything. Few elected officials get elected for proposing alternative sentences for fear of looking soft on crime. As a result, harsher and harsher sentences, more crowded prisons, and more lives thrown away with little hope or effort to redeem. In some states we now spend more on prisons than education.

Petters’ sentence should make us think about these issues, as well as about human nature and how gullible others other to believe in the get rich quick scams proposed by him and Madoff. Come to think of it, perhaps Petters is simply the poster child and personification of the greed of Wall Street and the economic crash of the last few years. All of us want to be Willie Lomans and hit it big. There will be more Petters and the 50 year sentence will not deter them or future victims wanting to score big.

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