With reports that the Obama administration may be moving away from the "public option" and its vision of the government as the insurer of the uninsured, America is showing any politician who is listening something critical.
Bottom line, if there is anything that explains why the Obama health care platform is running into trouble, it's this: a nanny state is simply not part of Brand America.
Americans want government to help when they really need it. But only when they really need it. The rest of the time, they'd rather be doing things on their own.
The angry outbursts and popular movements against the perceived health care putsch, as well as the general disfavor for a big government plan, have reminded us that America is majority right of center and still hews to the ideal of rugged individualism.
By and large, the twentieth century has shown that Americans favor "situational" help but not "institutionalized" help.
After World War II, we had the GI Bill to provide important assistance to returning vets. During the war, of course, we had The Office of Price Administration.-- Now that sounds like Big Brother, and it was --but it was temporary (a necessity during wartime), and that's the key.
Americans are willing to accept government intervention in extraordinary circumstances, but when things return to normal --fuggedaboutit.
This is critical to understanding the Target Market --which, for Barack Obama, as it is for every president, is all of the American people.
The situational help has to respond to the situational reality if it is to be politically viable in America. During the Depression, unemployment was close to triple what it is now and desperately needed Federal help--and, help was provided. We're nowhere near that number now, and our policy has to reflect this fact, as do the policy responses across the board, from health care to the auto industry. (The Cash for Clunkers program, for all its management faults, hit about the right level of responsive help).
Folks, this isn't Charles Dickens' England.
Going forward, the Democrats and the White House (as well as the Republicans who are working to craft a viable opposition plan) need to remember that the Nanny State model simply simply does not correspond to America's core brand features.
And remember, business and the business of politics is always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert. He is the founder and president of the Marketing Department of America.