I recently read Jennifer Egan’s novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, where she examines the inevitable effect the passage of time (referred to as the “debilitating goon squad”) has on our lives and our culture.
The author also considers a politically relevant topic: the tension between the authentic and what is commercially marketable. One factor which makes many citizens so cynical about politics is the prevalence of career politicians who lack sincerity, choosing instead, a cold, calculated pursuit of power, fame, and money. Their statements, ideology, and votes are not guided by a genuine conviction concerning how best to lead their constituents and their country, but by the all-consuming desire to get re-elected.
Although Egan does not provide a resolution to the tension, she places hope in the voices of creative artists, whose passion and sincerity can develop a world vision to inspire change for the better. Through the arts, positive change is possible,despite a marketing system that focuses primarily on profit and market share – not content.
Here, in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, we have been subjected to Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s relentless marketing machine with its manufactured “moderate/bipartisan” brand for 10 years.
Of course, it is especially obvious during election time. The tiny “Proud To Support” lawn signs suddenly start popping up all over Bucks County, not only on people’s lawns, but even on our highways where its message makes no sense. For who is “proud to support” on a highway? The weeds?
Then, ubiquitous lawn signs appear, followed by the humongous ones and then the same old tired endorsement signs (farmers and puppies are on my side!). And what all these signs have in common is the relentless drubbing of our eyeballs with the Fitzpatrick name. The priority is name recognition, not what the candidate stands for.
And this branding doesn’t just appear around election time, but occurs incessantly from the very moment Fitzpatrick is sworn in. Weekly Facebook newsletters exhibit this beautifully. Endless photo-ops of Fitzpatrick abound. The candidate is seen standing next to something so obviously valued by everyone and pointedly non-controversial to ensure Fitzpatrick is associated with that valued object, person, or idea.
A Fitzpatrick stands next to a Boy Scout or an Eagle Scout or a veteran or a food pantry or a police officer.
Meanwhile, we’re not sure what his votes are on subjects critical to our needs, but the pictures of a Fitzpatrick standing next to something good tell us he must be a good guy.
But where is the sincere authentic voice of this leader? Brian Fitzpatrick voted for Trump in 2020. He twice let Trump off the hook in both of his impeachment trials. He voted for the tax scam for the rich, but against the working class Build Back Better legislation. That is a big part of the hidden, but authentic, Fitzpatrick voice that is not seen on his lawn signs or in his mailers.
Maybe the yearning for authenticity and sincerity is why Democrat John Fetterman is ahead in the polls and in grassroots donations in the Senate race. Those who have heard him speak know he is not your typical politician, but someone who speaks honestly and bluntly about issues for which he cares deeply.
Likewise, in the Congressional race, Democrat Ashley Ehasz is an authentic young woman, not a photo-op cardboard cutout. She wishes to lead; not for power, fame or money, but to improve the lives of her future constituents and the life of our beloved democracy.
Ehasz, who had the courage to become an Apache helicopter pilot in our military, will have the courage to listen to her constituents in real town halls.
Those who have met her understand that she is an intelligent woman of compassion who has overcome much adversity in her life. Coming from humble origins, she will not fight for the rich, but for all Americans. She understands firsthand the need families have for quality health care, so she will fight for a better healthcare system for all Americans. She will fight with passion and intensity, not against, but for, women’s freedom. Ehasz speaks with an honest voice, the kind of voice the 10-year Fitzpatrick machine hasn’t been able to manufacture.
With your votes in November, the right choice in the Egan dilemma, between mindless marketing and authenticity, will be made. The much- needed sincerity of Ehasz, who will listen to and fight for us in Washington D.C. as our next Congresswoman, will triumph over the tired, hollow Fitzpatrick marketing machine.