Thoughts from the editor’s desk

Nathan Zoschke

Chancellor Morton did the right thing

I was surprised to find out that after all the talk about a UMKC name change, Chancellor Leo Morton has abandoned the proposal.

I was convinced otherwise, as were many others.

Morton publically announced the proposal in May. He emphasized that a name change would not affect UMKC’s affiliation within the UM System, and reasoned that a name change would better distinguish UMKC as “Kansas City’s university” and could boost enrollment and private donations.

My hunch is that moneyed donors were a driving force behind the proposal. Those who graduated from the University of Kansas City prior to the UM System merger in 1963 may still remember the school as “KCU.”

Nonetheless, the name change proposal did not resonate well with students or faculty.

From the onset of the name change discussion, Morton stressed that the research, including input from name change forums and surveys, would determine the advancement of the proposal.

I was told survey results would be released in November. Although we have yet to see hard numbers, it is difficult to imagine there was widespread support for the name change based on the feedback U-News has received.

Of the 180 responses to the name change poll, 113—or 63 percent—were in favor of keeping the current name.

A petition by the College of Arts and Sciences Theatre Department urging Morton to drop the proposal garnered more than 100 signatures, including all but one faculty member from the Theatre Department. It argued a name change would destroy the national brand equity the department has spent years trying to create.

I was ambiguous on the proposal. I doubted the impact would be pronounced one way or the other. (The reputation of a school depends on the quality of its students, faculty, athletics and academic programs, not its name.)

Others were irate. Many feared the Chancellor had already made the decision to change the name and was using the surveys (which were sent out along with Morton’s pro-name change talking points) and sparsely-attended forums as a false pretense to justify his decision.

Morton kept his word, and he proved his critics wrong.

Campaigns, a stimulus for the ad industry

The debates, attack ads and pundits tell us that the two parties are polar opposites.

The Obama campaign has portrayed Romney as an out-of-touch billionaire apathetic to the realities of working class Americans. The Romney campaign has portrayed Obama as a liberal, big-government zealot ready to tax the rich into oblivion.

In reality, the president has very little power to implement sweeping transformative change. Thank the Founding Fathers.

Obama painfully learned this after shooting himself in the foot in 2008 with his pie-in-the-sky promises of hope and change. If Obama had simply promised to do what was feasible—taking the U.S. off George W. Bush’s path of destruction and averting the Second Great Depression—he would have fewer critics.

But most voters aren’t pragmatic. We’re spoiled Americans, and it’s our God-given right to be entertained—first world problems. Political debates and elections are like football games, and so-called pundits are like sports commentators analyzing each poll and sound bite like a play-by-play.

If Obama had simply promised to do what was feasible, people wouldn’t have attended rallies that filled entire football stadiums and bought Obama water bottles and dog shirts.

In his days as a stodgy Massachusetts moderate, Romney attended Planned Parenthood fundraisers and laid the groundwork for “Obamacare.”

Now he is a “Ronald Reagan conservative,” an axe-swinging tax cutter ready to hit the gas pedal to the eight-cylinder economic growth engine (with massive incentives for big oil, no less).

I can’t stand Mitt Romney’s authenticity any more than I like his politics, but I can’t fault him for doing what is inevitable in the era of branding and mass marketing.

Politicians and political parties are ideological brands, and voters are consumers who desire conformity.

Attack ads extending all the way down to state representative campaigns attempt to scare voters with claims that one’s opponent “will bring Obama/Romney’s agenda to Kansas/Missouri.” Nice to know.

Both candidates and parties deserve credit—for an entirely different reason.

Together, they have propelled campaign spending to greatness and give us hope that this trend will not change, but continue.

Thanks to a lazy public that thinks it is being informed when it is being entertained, the campaigns that lavish the most spending on political ads and marketing have a considerable advantage at the polls.

Campaign spending by both parties and candidates for the 2012 election cycle has handily exceeded $2 billion, the costliest election to date.

Expect the trend to continue.

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