Marmite: Love it or Hate it
Though most Pundificator stories receive a few comments, the majority of feedback comes in texts, emails and personal conversations. Since I know most of the readers personally, I tend to answer them, and this often leads to engaging discussions. Sometimes these interactions even suggest ideas for stories, as did this one from a friend in England.
“It’s not healthy for your country to be mired in inter-party battles which, at the present rate, will see every President threatened with impeachment in every four-year cycle.”
“The atmosphere here [UK] was febrile, not so much inter-party as Leave-Remain, as you know. Video recordings and news coverage of that time look terrible, and yet six weeks on we’re back to being calm, and focused on wealth creation, despite having a leader not unlike your own, certainly he’s Marmite. What event can USA have to bring peace to Capitol Hill, which after all is supposed to be there to serve the people, not just to annoy them?”
The phrase “certainly he’s Marmite” sent me back to the author with a “please explain” request. I know what Marmite is but, until undertaking further “academic” research on Wikipedia, I did not know it’s “Love it or Hate it” slogan.
For the record, as to Marmite, I am firmly in the “Hate it” camp and, now that I know the name of its inventor (Justis von Liebig), I think I will hate him too.
Here is a quote from the Wikipedia Marmite entry: “Marmite began a ‘Love it or Hate it’ campaign during October 1996, and this resulted in the phrase ‘Marmite effect’ or ‘Marmite reaction’ for anything which provoked controversy.” [Note to yesterday’s birthday boy reader: the quote includes a clear violation of your mother’s famed “which/that” rule, but it is a quote. Happy birthday.]
The Wikipedia history of Marmite is actually kind of interesting though it has the mark of the corporate publicist about it. I had no idea where Marmite came from (byproduct of beer brewing), though the article did not change my view as to where it’s going and that is anywhere except in my mouth.
From a publicist’s perspective, my hating Marmite is not an entirely bad thing. At no cost at all, the makers of this loathsome product have gotten me to talk about their wretched offering. Who knows, maybe a reader or two will amble over to wherever one buys the stuff to sample a jar for himself?
Is the same true of politics and it’s neglected stepchild governance?
The other day, in a story called Who’s the Audience, I wrote this line, “In the first 180 years of this country’s existence, we had one impeachment. In the last 60 years, we have had three. Triple the number in a third the time.”
If the first 75% of our history included one and the last 25% included three, what would a trendline look like for the future? True, there are too few data points to be reliable, and extrapolation is a fool’s errand, but the graph would look pretty vertical.
Will every President who faces a House of Representatives controlled by the other party be impeached? One casualty will surely be that people will cease to think impeachment has any meaning whatever.
According to a highly regarded and widely known political forecaster who spoke to me and 249 other people at lunch today (Chatham House Rules preclude more information), it is widely known that House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wanted no part of an impeachment.
Her party divides in two groups. About 60% want to hit the reset button and return to the pre-Trump era by nominating any moderate candidate who can beat the President. About 40% want fundamental change because they are far to the left of traditional Democratic politics and want to nominate a purist who shares their views. The pressure for impeachment came from the latter group.
Speaker Pelosi might have been right because, according to the Washington Post, (Trump begins reelection year more competitive against Democrats than he was three months ago, Post-ABC poll finds), “The improvement in his [President Trump’s] job approval rating in this poll — to 44 percent, an increase of six percentage points since fall — coincides with the Senate impeachment trial, which has further polarized the country. Whether it represents a lasting shift in Trump’s favor has obvious political implications, given the stakes in the election year.”
The next decision in the impeachment trial is whether or not to call witnesses. The Democrats want them because witnesses are likely to embarrass the President, but if continuing the trial into the Spring keeps moving the President’s approval ratings up, maybe Republicans should want witnesses too? This was Speaker Pelosi’s fear.
Congressional job approval ratings are (most recently) 26% approve 58% disapprove, which is actually pretty good by recent Congressional standards although horrible by pretty much any other standards. Perhaps it is easier not to care that more than twice as many people hate you than love you if political fund raising continues on its present torrid pace.
Even cartoonists have found ways to mock current Congressional behavior though mockery has no known impact on what they do.
When might the “Love it or Hate it” strategy begin to backfire? Probably when the money dries up.
Back to my friend’s ending question, “what event can USA have to bring peace to Capitol Hill, which after all is supposed to be there to serve the people, not just to annoy them?”
Barring a major external event that would require bipartisanship, it is probably up to us. We have to show that “Love it or Hate it” has run its course and no longer works.