The Aesthetics of Pledge to America

DANI ALEXIS RYSKAMP: The Wall Street Journal informs me that President Obama will be making a tour shortly “to attempt to dismantle the Republican party’s “Pledge To America” governing platform.” Attempt to dismantle? Either the WSJ has a poor view of our President, or Obama has really lost his edge. Face it, folks; this thing can be dismantled by a hay-fever-ridden twentysomething with an 80s-vintage word processor.

Allow me to demonstrate.

First, the Pledge reminds us of something we may or may not have heard in history class while doodling our crush-of-the-week’s initials on the cover of our Trapper Keepers. Then comes my favorite bit: the GOP promises (excuse me, “pledges”) “to advance policies that promote…wider opportunity.”

…For whom, exactly? Because I’m pretty sure the GOP’s prehistoric stance on, say, reproduction means they’d prefer I took my beskirted self back in the kitchen. Possibly to make sandwiches. American sandwiches.

Then there are plans. Plans! All the plans in the universe! Bold font red italicized underlined plans! Of course, the Foreword doesn’t bother to tell you what the plans actually are, but that’s only because you won’t actually like them. Here, have a meat counter.

We then, finally and after some baffling photos of cowboys, move into the PledgePlans(TM) themselves, each nicely supplemented with a few choice Republitastic quotes. I particularly appreciate the wisdom of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on page 14: “Top-down one-size-fits-all decision-making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market….” Unless, of course, you’re talking about where to put the tax breaks.

Page 17′s Inexplicable Photo Montage features the first possibly-non-white person I’ve seen in the Pledge so far: a dark-haired lady in a red dress who looks like she may be Gloria Anzaldua. Who is surely rolling in her grave at the mere thought that she might appear in this badly-Photoshopped piece of nonsense. Also, cowboys. Pie chart. Flow chart. Cowboys. Fancy text. Cowboys. Microphones. Foliage. Cowboys.

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Lots of people have commented on the meaning behind the written content of the Pledge to America, but I’d like to talk about the pictures that have been included in the downloadable .pdf document. Does it strike anyone else as odd that 15 of the 48 pages in are devoted to pictures? Is this a doctrine or a children’s book? Were its authors afraid of losing their audience if they didn’t intersperse scattered, sparse blocks of text with clichéd images of the Statue of Liberty and a silhouetted Marlboro man sitting on a horse waving a lasso? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy pictures as much as the next American, but in my political doctrines, for some reason, I still prefer words.

Of course, for the statisticians among us, there are charts and diagrams included as well, but some of them are there solely to make the point that charts and diagrams are confusing and unhelpful. You know what’s apparently more helpful? A picture of a bunch of people standing behind a deli counter, and another of John Boehner giving America the side-eye.

Thanks mainly to the pictures, the Pledge to America reads like a glossy travel pamphlet, rather than a document that is supposed to provide a solution to the healthcare crisis (unless it involves more delis?) and reform congress. Not to mention the fact that nearly all of the people depicted in the brochure appear to be white, and no one is under the age of 40. This is not a pledge to America, it’s a damn retirement community brochure. There are endless images of people sitting in meeting rooms, people crowding into town-hall style auditoriums; old white men shaking hands with other old white men. Republican Party? Your base is showing.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then tell me, who is this pledge really to? Because I’m pretty sure the answer is not America.

Oh, and in the graphic on page 15? I think you meant “Stimulus”, guys: Not “Stiumulus”. Maybe you should pledge to use more copywriters next time around.

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