In 1969 Joe McGinniss wrote “The Selling of the President,” a book about the role advertising played in the 1968 presidential election. For the first time, it advanced the idea that candidates were molded and presented to the voters as products.
In the nearly half-century since then, the trend has only intensified. Races are often handicapped by how much money a particular candidate has raised for advertising.
This year has been a little different so far. The major party candidates – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump – are being marketed to a somewhat skeptical group of consumers. There are many in both parties who are unenthusiastic about this year's “products.” Both Clinton and Trump have extremely high disapproval ratings.
So it is somewhat surprising that the other products in the race haven't gotten much attention. Consumers unhappy with their choices, after all, like to shop around.
What makes it all the more interesting this election cycle, the Libertarian Party ticket would seem to appeal to many Republicans horrified by Trump while the Green Party ticket tracks well with the political views of many disaffected Democrats, including supporters of Bernie Sanders' presidential bid.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential nominee, is a former Republican governor of New Mexico for two terms, from the mid to late 1990s. As governor, Johnson espoused small government values but also was somewhat liberal on social issues, something that doesn't endear him to the GOP base.
Johnson's running mate is William Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, serving from 1991 to 1997. Nominated in 1997 by President Bill Clinton to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Weld's nomination was blocked by fellow Republican, Sen. Jesse Helms, who didn't care for his liberal views on social issues.
Democrats who “felt the Bern” during the primary season no doubt have a lot in common with Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein, a Harvard-trained physician. She's in favor of a single-payer health care system, forgiving student loans, and for campaign finance reform. She's refused to accept money from corporate donors.
Her running mate is Ajamu Baraka, an international human rights activist and a social justice advocate with experience stretching over three decades.
Both parties have put forth detailed platforms and positions on key issues that have yet to get much exposure to voters. While recent economic speeches by both Trump and Clinton received widespread media coverage and analysis, little is known about these other presidential “products.”
There is real concern in both the Democratic and Republican parties about how the Libertarian and Green tickets could affect this already odd presidential race.
It's conceivable that significant chunks of both parties' voters could opt for an “off-brand candidate” this year, making an unpredictable race even more so. In this age of disruption, anything is possible.