Cougars, Archers, Snipers
I’m a microtrend.
Hillary’s programmer says so. I’m mentioned in a section of Mark Penn’s new book, “Microtrends,” called “Impressionable Elites.”
It could have been worse. At least I wasn’t in the sections on Cougars, French Teetotalers, The Mildly Disordered, Aspiring Snipers or Unisexuals.
Unisex, a trend started by hip hair salons in the ’70s, has blossomed into a “third-sex category” that some say will be “the next wave of the civil rights movement,” Mr. Penn writes.
“Sure, only a few people take opposite-sex hormones, or dress up in their spouse’s clothes,” he says, “but since the 1970s there has been a substantial blurring of the line between ‘male’ and ‘female’ in terms of habits, tastes, and fashions. And the marketers are picking up on it.”
That would be corporate marketers and Hillary Marketers (more of a macrotrend). Her political hucksters and Power Pointers are trying to help the New York senator blur the line between “male” and “female” enough to become the first commanderess in chief.
In “Microtrends,” the chapters all read like reports that Mr. Penn wrote for clients. Whether or not they’re trends, they’re certainly micro — marketing studies gussied up as social science. As with Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” this book is less social philosophy than a fancy way to sell stuff. Why use red aluminum cans if you can sell more of the product in pink aluminum cans?
Why rely on a candidate’s charisma and beliefs if you can break down the country into microconstituencies — from Archery Moms to Surgery Lovers to Uptown Tattooed — and then devise policies to appeal to them?
In the “Impressionable Elites” section, Mr. Penn writes that he does not like it when New York Times writers “trend toward the personal.”
“Sure, likability and buddy potential are important in choosing a president,” he sniffs. “But are they more important than solving health care and creating jobs? Most Americans say no. Frankly, the only people who say yes are the very well-to-do. And the chattering classes, in the media.”
I understand that Mr. Penn is touchy on the likability issue. Whether he likes it or not, personality influences how Americans choose presidents. And on the trail, Hillary comes across more as a pile of diligently digested data than a joyful flesh-and-blood creature.
But Mr. Penn is the one who has conjured a story line designed to make her more likable: the middle-class girl from the middle of the country with Midwest values who wants to govern from the middle. McGovernick? Meshugana!
And, while he scoffs at the rightful place of the personal in the political, he’s the one carving up the political into the personal, dividing (and hopefully conquering) voters by ludicrously discrete traits: Caffeine Crazies. Late-Breaking Gays. Hard-of-Hearers. Bourgeois and Bankrupt. Ardent Amazons. Shy Millionaires. (These section titles read like a new lineup of Fox reality shows.)
At a press breakfast in Washington last week, Mr. Penn elaborated on his point, musing that perhaps newspapers festooned their straight policy reporting once they “realized that they might get more readership by focusing a little bit more on style and personality.”
The pollster is so used to dicing data into bite-sized pieces that the big picture may have eluded him: History shows that leaders’ personalities and policies are inextricably, and sometimes tragically, entwined. L.B.J.’s DNA led to Vietnam as Nixon’s led to Watergate as Reagan’s led to Iran-contra as Bill’s led to Monica as Hillary’s led to her health care fiasco as W.’s led to the Iraq imbroglio.
Bill Clinton elevated his neuroses into a management style, running a chaotic White House that took its tempo from his adolescent indulgences and from his volatile marriage. The West Wing weather was determined by the Clintons’ strange emotional and political co-dependence.
In her acid flashback of a new book, “For Love of Politics,” Sally Bedell Smith describes how First Lady Hillary routinely unmanned Bill and his aides, and engaged in sharp spurts of temper that sparked his temper.
“Hillary’s anger was bound up in the intricacies of her marital bargain, which engendered rivalry and resentment along with mutual dependence,” Ms. Smith writes. Political power was her reward for his marital infidelity.
When Bill explains why Hillary should be president, his subtext is clear: We owe it to her for all she put up with from me.
At the breakfast, a reporter asked Mr. Penn if the campaign has polled to figure out how to proceed if Bill’s personal foibles once more take Hillaryland hostage.
The pollster who believes that data trumps DNA brushed off the question, complimenting the former president as “a tremendous asset.”
But if you think that Hillary doesn’t have connubial contingency plans in place, you’re disregarding his DNA — and hers.