Editor’s Note: Dillon Eliassen has been living in exile for the past month after an altercation he was involved in with his nephew, William. William burned Mr. Eliassen’s house down in retaliation for Mr. Eliassen trying to murder William in his sleep. Mr. Eliassen believed William’s satirical powers to be far greater than his own, and feared William would use those powers for evil. This rash and violent decision by Mr. Eliassen may seem out of character, but the new owner of Delusions and Shortcuts (formerly Shortcuts & Delusions) has decided to take the column in a new direction.
Welcome to the newly retooled Delusions and Shortcuts! The column has been on hiatus for the past month while I rebranded, following the decision of shareholders to sell a majority stake to Disney. While a portion of creative oversight has been ceded to a committee comprised of Disney accountants, actuaries and animatronic engineers, the acquisition of this column by Disney ensures that new and exciting installments of Delusions and Shortcuts will be published regularly and consistently, literally FOREVER, even if I run out of jokes, opinions, insights, and the ability to form cogent thoughts, words, simple sentences, as well as recognize the shapes, scents and sounds of my loved ones.
In order to better serve existing readership, as well as earn a wider audience, I’m no longer going to primarily write political and cultural satire, and will introduce some new features of Delusions and Shortcuts. They include “Orrin Hatch Watch,” which will detail the social going-ons of the senior senator from Utah; movie reviews of latest offerings by female film directors; product reviews of household appliances; “Who Wore It Better?” and “Will They Or Won’t They?” segments of pairings of A-list politicians and celebrities; page and word counts of any and all local, state, a federal legislation up for votes (no descriptions or analyses of these bills will be provided); a monthly segment on which politicians (both male and female) look better with facial hair.
I’ve always been fascinated by how and why companies rebrand/retool/reimagine/rewhatever their products, and whether the attempt will succeed or fail. These attempts usually do not meet or exceed expectations, as they seem to be superficial attempts to retain or increase market share by generating buzz for existing products when a new and superior product is not yet available to bring to market. If a company changes its line so that enough of its existing customer base stops buying, while not earning new customers, that company will go out of business.
Brand loyalty eventually wears out…except for Star Wars. Star Wars is the Pepsi or McDonald’s of pop culture in that it is ubiquitous, but the difference is Disney doesn’t have to worry about losing its Star Wars audience. In the 1990s Pepsi had the good sense to pull Crystal Pepsi, and McDonald’s realized it shit the bed with the Arch Deluxe. Pepsi and McDonald’s realized they were losing money and didn’t want to jeopardize their customer base. By contrast, Disney followed up the shitty The Force Awakens with the inexplicably even shittier The Last Jedi.
Pepsi and McDonald’s understand they have to pay attention to market forces and those forces can and will affect their brand loyalties, whereas Disney understands the Star Wars fan base (comprised of both casual movie-goers and obsessive fanboys such as myself) is so strong that Episode IX could be titled 3 Hours of Rey & Kylo Playing Connect 4 and it would make a trillion dollars. Ever since The Phantom Menace, every time I walk into the theater for a new Star Wars movie, I think to myself “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” and except for Rogue One, I’ve been disappointed (though I will watch Revenge of the Sith when it’s on basic cable). Yet, I know I will stagger into a theater to watch each and every new Star Wars movie.
This irrational form of brand loyalty is also exhibited by sports fans such as myself. I’m a Miami Dolphins and New York Mets fan. The products of these two teams perpetually underwhelms, yet out of a sense of nostalgia and the inane concept that it is fraudulent to choose a new team to root for, I continue to, as Jerry Seinfeld said, “cheer for laundry.”
The typical American supports the same political party election year in and election year out. This is a brand loyalty even more irrational, and far more pernicious, than that which Star Wars and sports teams enjoy. The Last Jedi‘s box office take, or if the Mets win the World Series, has zero real world effect on our lives; who is elected as president, and which party controls Congress, does.
Most vote based on if there is an “R” or “D” next to a candidate’s name. Why go through the trouble of examining a candidate’s, or a whole party’s, ideology when one can just clothe himself in the warm and comfortable sweater of partisanship and cheerleading?
Support for political parties has taken on such an “us vs. them” foundation that I’m not sure the old adage that if you aren’t a liberal when young you have no heart, and if you aren’t a conservative when old you have no brain, still applies. This irrational brand loyalty hardly wavers when political parties support a proposal to resolve an issue that, by all accounts, would go against its stated ideology. When political parties retool and are taken in new directions, their support for them continues unabated since the desire for protection within the herd is much stronger than the desire for ideological consistency.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties need to go in new directions. The Democratic leadership should announce that they are recommitting to their principle of helping the poor by supporting deregulation and tax cuts, as capitalism is the greatest avenue out of poverty, and Republican leaders should double down on their support of American Exceptionalism by stating their support for unconditional amnesty and open borders for any immigrant who wants to work and live by the principles enshrined in America’s founding documents.
Right now, the only new direction the R’s and D’s are going in is making the only qualification for running for president be the ability to give a speech that rallies the base. This started with Barack Obama in 2004, and is more analogous to what is sought for in presidential candidates, rather than the simpleton criticism that both Oprah and Trump are TV stars.
It would be great for the Libertarian Party if Nicholas Sarwark gave a press conference wherein he stated, “We are retooling the party. We’ve decided we no longer want to be a laughingstock.” A really edgy and provocative way for the Libertarian Party to go in a new direction would be for any of its national candidates to win an election, or at least be competitive in one.
And that’s the way it is, as far as you know.