Friday, October 27, 2017

Tried-And-True Political Strategy

For a guy proud that he's not a lifetime politician, President Trump certainly nailed his version of the pol's classic "it's personal for me" shtick in his opiate speech when he stated

I learned myself, I had a brother Fred, great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine, but he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me don't drink. Don't drink.

He was substantially older, and I listened to him and respected. But I would constantly tell me don't drink. He would also add don't smoke. But he would say it over and over and over again. And to this day I've never had a drink. And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it. To this day I've never had a cigarette. Don't worry, those are only two of my good things. I don't want to tell you about the bad things. There are plenty of bad things too. But he really helped me. I had somebody that guided me. And he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol, believe me, very, very tough life.

It was, however, only shtick, which we know because he remarked also

The fact is if we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it's really, really easy not to take them. And I think that's going to end up being our most important thing. Really tough, really big, really great advertising. So we get to people before they start so they don't have to go through the problems of what people are going through. 

The President's new policy on opioid addiction is characterized by loosening regulations and restrictions, but no assurance of additional money beyond the $57,000 in the Public Health Emergency Fund. His policy is likely to be the comfortable marriage of marketing and unrealistic optimism.

Really tough, really big, really great advertising.  Trump's primary source of wealth in the past couple of decades has not been in real estate because

Many of the properties that bear the Trump name aren't actually owned by the mogul. The Trump Organization has been known to partner with developers in licensing deals. In such an arrangement, a developer pays Trump a licensing fee; in exchange, they're given permission to brand their building with the Trump name and logo. Trump benefits by receiving a regular stream of royalties, while the developer can increase the rates she charges because the Trump name signifies high quality and luxury. According to Trump, his real estate licensing deals, intellectual property, brands and branded development are worth more than $3.3 billion; however, Forbes pegs this number at around $253 million.

But the real tell in Trump's approach was the statement "the fact is if we can teach young people, and people generally,  not to start, it's realy, really easy not to take them."

We tried that in the early 1980s, when First Lady Nancy Reagan launched her "Just Say No" program. Wikipedia recalls "in 1982, the phrase 'Just Say No' first emerged when Nancy Reagan was visiting Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, California. When asked by a schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs, the First Lady responded: 'Just say no."

It was as easy as that- no fuss, no bother; except that it didn't work.  There is little indication that "Just Say No" programs which sprung up in schools, media boosterism, and well-publicized appearances by the First Lady and others helped stem the plague, and strong evidence that law enforcement's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.) had any impact.

After increasing for a few years, cocaine use declined, because that's what happens to an "epidemic" (the buzzword used ten times by the President yesterday).  There is either a massive commitment of resources to the crisis or- as in this case- resources needed elsewhere get shifted to address the shiny new object while other needs get stiffed.  We don't know when the crisis will abate but we can be sure that the President will declare victory whatever the trend of opiate addiction during this presidential term.

 Like marketing and triumphalism, it is what has gotten Donald J. Trump where he is today.

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