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Posted at 08:15 PM ET, 06/22/2011

The Palin trademark, Oprah and Tinker Bell politics


Sarah Palin (Soon To Be TM) (Julio Cortez - AP)
By all accounts, the presidency is a thankless task.

On Wednesday, Barack Obama’s schedule included such arcana as receiving the Presidential Daily Briefing, greeting Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders, and addressing the nation about Afghanistan. That sounds like a lot of effort, especially when it’s such a nice day out. And a scant 45 percent of the population approves of the job he’s doing. Hardly seems worth it. He could be golfing!

In light of such stubborn facts, it comes as little surprise that Sarah Palin is stopping her Possibly Exploratorily Presidential bus tour — and trademarking her name.

Maybe Palin doesn’t want to be the next president. Maybe what she wants to be is the next Oprah Winfrey, someone famous not for doing anything but for being everything. Presidents have to shake hands with unglamorous people and make no-win decisions. When they threaten to repudiate things, those remarks can have actual real-world consequences.

For someone who apparently finds governing Alaska or riding a van across the country with her family too onerous to stay the course, it’s difficult to imagine what appeal this antiquated office would hold. With great power comes great responsibility? Can’t you get the responsibility on the side?

So forget the presidency. Just get a trademark.

At first, it seemed inconceivable to me that Palin would do anything to discourage people from using her name. Who was she worrying might damage the brand? (“I got the Sarah Palin™ lawn mower,” people would say. “It stopped mowing halfway through, but it did coin several new words.”) True, people keep mistaking Tina Fey for her. But in many cases that is a boon.

But the brand enshrines something far more fundamental.

It’s Tinker Bell politics.

Clap! If you believe in Palin! Clap! Clap! Tweet! Retweet! Say the name! Say the Name™! If you don’t publish, she’ll perish!

Every time you mention Sarah Palin, somewhere, a publicist gets his horns and tail. So for someone who seems to draw strength every time anyone anywhere, no matter how remote, murmurs her name, perhaps this brand is a logical next step.

It’s something we all aspire to. When we graduated, someone read aloud that “There is no one alive who is You-Er than You!” This tautological Seussism is the backbone of our lives. We aren’t people. We’re brands. If we aren’t registered yet it’s only because we haven’t yet reached Palinesque peaks.

Love? Honor? Those are weak emotions compared to brand loyalty. To maintain our personal brands, we will move mountains and wear hair shirts and even return your phone calls. “Got to build my brand,” we mumble, tumbling out of bed at 5 in the morning to tweet something whimsical, yet heartfelt, about Miracle Whip. Keep your brand, and one day it’ll keep you. In 10 years Lady Gaga will be able to walk into a room in an argyle sweater and khakis, and everyone will extoll her metamorphosis.

Be yourself! they say. We’re happy to oblige. It’s better than doing something. In fact, not having to do anything comes as an overwhelming relief. We know little history and possess few marketable skills. As a group, our lack of any actual skill or knowledge is only exceeded by our self-esteem.

Once, we had to be right to prevail. Thanks to brands, we merely have to be consistent.

Say anything you like about what happened to Paul Revere! Just as long as you say it with your characteristic flair, there will be people on the Internet who agree with you.

Forget everything else. Just be yourself. Be someone. Be — Sarah Palin™.

Of course she quit the bus tour. Of course she’s registered her name. It’s the same reason she quit governing to become a Professional Houseguest of the National Consciousness.

Why do anything when Brand Life is an option?

That was the gospel of Oprah. And Palin seems poised to take the mantle. Say what you will about her, most of the commenters agree that she is good at expressing things that people are feeling, often using words that exist. That sounds like Oprah to me.

Bus tour? What bus tour? There are bigger things in store.

Just not the presidency.

By  |  08:15 PM ET, 06/22/2011

Tags:  Sarah Palin, Oprah, Brands

 
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