FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Man Who Builds Hillaryworld

The pollster and immensely influential tactical adviser at Hillary Clinton’s elbow is Mark Penn. Penn’s polling played a crucial role in Bill Clinton’s recovery from the nadir of 1994, when he joined Team Clinton as part of the rescue party summoned by Hillary Clinton and headed by Dick Morris. Penn has been joined at the hip politically to Mrs Clinton ever since, as a prime adviser of her successful senate bid and now in her drive to capture the Democratic presidential nomination.

To find out what Penn and hence Mrs Clinton deems worthy of note about the state of he naion we can now turn to Penn’s new book, Microtrends.*

Penn’s America is a bright-eyed, mostly upbeat world. As he bowls along, Penn tosses market-researched stats and polling data like confetti and soon the reader is spattered with golly-gee micro-measurements: growing number of home knitters (“knitting is very hip”), decline of baseball fans, burgeoning vegan children, rise of women archers, longer best-selling books, more college-educated nannies, a surge in employees in the non-profit sector, more kids who are cross-dressers and who, Penn says brightly, “are triggering a large, new tolerance movement in schools and communities.”

There are no Columbines in Mr Penn’s index, no Goths intolerantly spraying the schoolyard with machine-gun fire. Why look on the dark side when Penn’s researchers excavate the news that there are more left-handers, hence – Penn boldly claims–the probability of more da Vincis. Now that’s a microtrend worth savoring! The factoid lies on the page, awaiting an entrepreneur and a business plan. Will some niche ‘trep (teen entrepreneur–a microtrend) change the zipper seam on guys’ pants, so lefties can unzip with their left hands. Will guys wear pants? Will there be any guys? Yes, says Penn, the long-term trend is towards more guys, hence more gays.

“Part of the reason I love this work,” burbles Penn about his polling, “is that every day I find out some new aspiration, hope or concern people have, and I get to help my clients shape their products and messages based on these findings.” What Penn never finds are the collective aspirations of groups of people who find the American corporate system intolerably unjust. Union people don’t figure in his focus groups–at least as real workers as opposed to pasteboard constructs as such Soccer Moms or Nascar Dads. The people who find it easiest to contact Penn to communicate their aspirations, hopes and concerns are the people who can afford to meet his hefty bills, meaning the rich and the powerful, starting with Bill Gates and heading on through Silvio Berlusconi, the nuclear industry, Monsanto and other clients in need of image refreshment.

Penn also the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, (part of the British-based WPP Group), a pr firm that in the course of its career has been retained to winch some sensationally grimy clients out of the mud, such Union Carbide after Bhopal, the Argentine military junta and Royal Dutch Shell after some very poor publicity in Nigeria.

“We live in a world with a deluge of choices” Penn exults, in a typical paean to modern times. “In some sense it’s the triumph of the Starbucks economy over the Ford economy.. Starbucks is governed by the idea that people make choices–in their coffee, their milk, their sweetener” It’s the way Bill Clinton used to burble on, using research briefs and polls concocted by Penn and Morris to persuade Americans that with Bill at the helm the nation would be on the cutting edge of innovative thinking and performance.

Actually, in terms of their respective products Fordism offered a lot more choices than Starbucks. In the mid-1950s, the options available to the purchaser of a Chevy Bel-Air 4-door sedan were infinite, from a rainbow of paint and fabric combinations including a paisley-pattern roof. The shapes and styles of the cars were prodigious in baroque variety. And the cars were often cheap. As for Starbucks, the company’s basic signature is over-roasted beans and its core achievement is to have people fork over $3.50 for a cup of coffee. Starbucks is a predatory franchiser and its arrival in any town usually heralds the extinction of existing small cafes and diners. Its signage , across America and around the world through 13000 outlets, advertises not Penn’s “customized, personalized products” but unending repetition.

The trick of Microtrends is to offer an America shaped to match the sort of “non-divisive” political rhetoric favored by the Democratic Leadership Council, an outfit paid for by corporations and designed to purge the Democratic Party of any partiality to the cause of labor or the interests of the poor. The Clintons have always been the DLC’s marquee attraction, and its outlook is Pnn’s. In the tapestry of Microtrends the spotlight is not on an awful health system with over 40 million uninsured, but on DIYDs, Do-It-Yourself Doctors. Penn tells us “it’s the biggest trend in American health care”, spearheaded by women and the young and promoted by Penn and Burson-Marsteller, working diligently for the pharmaceutical companies whose products, freed from the trifling restraints of a doctor’s prescription, will be at the disposal of the DIYDs in the chain stores. Thus do microtrends find their due place in the great scheme of things.

* Microtrends, The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes. By Mark J. Penn with E.Kinney Zalesne. Twelve Books. 426 pp.

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail