Mitt Romney found himself in some hot water recently thanks to an unfortunate comment by an adviser. Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Romney’s most trusted aides, said of the general election:
“It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch – you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”
One of the main knocks on Romney is that he has a history of adopting positions based on what will get him elected rather than any sense of principle, so the imagery was too good for some to pass up:
Apparently you have to hold it like a fucking jerk if you’re going to use it in a speech.
If Romney wins the Republican nomination you can be sure that President Obama and his team will also make sure no one forgets the Etch A Sketch remark. Nerds on political blogs and on the Sunday morning talk shows debated whether this could be a fatal gaffe and how Romney could make people forget.
But I think Romney should make it his own. Rather than run away from the negative connotations of the Etch A Sketch, try to make people associate him with all of the positive feelings that everyone has about the Etch A Sketch. The Etch A Sketch has been a staple toy in childhoods going back generations. Sure, it’s no one’s favorite toy, but no toy chest was complete without it. Why, if you don’t remember the first time you tried drawing a breast on an Etch A Sketch then I’d venture to say that you aren’t in touch with the American experience. And everyone who ever experimented with breaking an Etch A Sketch open to satisfy their curiosity about how it worked? They’re bound together by the common experience of mesothelioma. After seeing the success of Romney making the Etch A Sketch the center of his campaign, his rivals are going to want to get in on the retro toy game too. To make it easy for them, I’ve already put some thought into what classic toys would best help each campaign:
The Toy: Moon shoes
“Super-fun original mini trampolines for the feet let you jump with anti-gravity effects while developing balance and coordination.” From the Amazon marketplace description. “Super-fun” seems to be editorial opinion rather than fact, from my recollection.
Why: Newt Gingrich has a strange fascination with the moon. He once proposed that we utilize a system of lunar mirrors to light highways at night and also “reduce the current danger of criminals lurking in darkness.” He also promised that, if elected, he’d have permanent bases built on the moon by 2020. Newt’s campaign has floundered since losing the Florida primary despite all the moon rhetoric. Arriving at campaign events and glad-handing supporters while wearing moon shoes could remind everyone of the important fact that if Newt is forced to drop out of this race, that we’ll be forever deprived of hearing what other crazy ideas he has for the moon.
The Toy: Operation
Poor old Cavity Sam has a lot of superfluous organs that must be infected because they need to be surgically removed. But don’t touch the sides, or the electricity that your parents have trusted you to play with will hurt Sam or something.
Why: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare,” for long) is one of the signature accomplishments of President Obama’s first term. As an attempt to reform health insurance and ensure that the less fortunate have access to care, Obama and the law’s supporters hope it will go down in history with other federal programs like Social Security, Medicare, or the Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately for President Obama, the American people aren’t big fans of the law yet. And some of the American people on the Supreme Court really don’t seem fond of it either. Some in the administration have suggested it’s a problem of messaging, that the people would like it if they had a better understanding of it. And there could be something to that. State-run exchanges, high-risk pools, Medicaid expansions, Medicare donut holes
It’s all very complicated.
That’s where Operation comes in. You see, Cavity Sam is uninsured. And because he can’t afford visits to his doctor’s office, he let his adam’s apple and writer’s cramp and funny bone get dangerously infected. So now he’s at the emergency room and his treatment rests on the still-developing hand-eye coordination of kids aged 3-8. And that’s not right. Boom, Obamacare explained.
The Toy: NERF
Foam-based weaponry that was a staple of my childhood cops vs. robbers battles. Side note: one of my longest-running fantasies is loading up with a crazy right-wing militia caliber amount of Nerf guns, renting out a huge hotel or Goldeneye-like facility and having an epic NERF battle against my friends.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Why: Ron Paul is the doggedly-consistent libertarian who runs for President all the time. Even when there’s no election. And every time, he hits a ceiling where he can’t seem to get any support outside of his diehard fans. The thing is though, when many voters hear his ideas (like ending the War on Drugs or curbing the influence of lobbyists), they are generally favorable to them. The problem is messaging. Ask people what they think of Ron Paul and the response is something like “I like a lot of his ideas, but…” and the clause following the “but” is usually something like “he’s a crazy old coot that scares me.” Instead of getting into elaborate hypotheticals and references to obscure Cold War-era economists like he normally does, Ron Paul should make NERF the centerpiece of his campaign.
One of the biggest parts of Paul’s platform is that the US should get out of all foreign entanglements, close down all of our military bases overseas, and drastically shrink the size of our military. And there’s no better imagery for these plans than NERF. Because without the ability to project force abroad, our military might as well just be armed with NERF guns.
The Toy: View-Master
I’m sure this was a really cool toy in 1900 when photography was still a novelty to most people, but nowadays the fun wears off pretty fast. But they’re still in production, so somebody’s buying them.
Why: Rick Santorum touts himself as the candidate of “traditional American values.” Even the casual fan of politics recognizes that as code for “I’m against abortion and gay marriage.” But when you look at all of the other things Rick Santorum is in favor of, it makes you wonder if there was ever an America like the one he imagines. During his time in the Senate, Santorum voted for budgets that helped create massive deficits. As a candidate, he has practically promised to invade Iran. And, it’s well known he wants the federal government all up in your business. He makes vague references to returning America to its founding principles, but I’m pretty sure if Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison woke up in Rick Santorum’s America it would inspire them to travel back in time and stop themselves from creating our government.
So because Santorum is imagining an America that never existed, I think View-Masters would be great for him and his supporters. They can fill the View-Master with photo-shopped images of the America they wish they had, and hopefully be so distracted that they would stay out of politics forever.