The Senator’s New Clothes
Many, many years ago there lived a presidential candidate who thought so much of the word change that he spent all his time thinking about it; his only ambition was the word change. He did not care for soldiers and basic economics did not amuse him; the only thing, in fact, he thought anything of was to drive out to the people and talk about the word change. He thought about change every hour of the day; and as one would say of a president, “He is in his Cabinet,” so one could say of him, “We are the change we deserve.”
The great city where he resided was very important; every day many strangers from all parts of the globe arrived. One day, two campaign strategists came to this city; they made people believe that they were for change, and declared they could manufacture the finest change to be imagined. Their kind of change, they said, was not only exceptionally different, but the change made of their philosophy possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.
“That must be wonderful change,” thought the presidential candidate. “If I were to run on this kind of platform I should be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places, and I could distinguish the clever from the stupid. I must have this change woven for me without delay.” And he gave a large sum of money to the political strategists, in advance, that they should set to work without any loss of time. They set up the media, and pretended to be very hard at work, but they did nothing whatever on their policies. They asked for the finest campaign workers and the most precious campaign cash; all they got they did away with, and worked at the empty rhetoric till late at night.
“I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the change,” thought the emperor. But he felt rather uneasy when he remembered that he who was not fit for his office could not see it. Personally, he was of the opinion that he had nothing to fear, yet he thought it advisable to send somebody else first to see how matters stood. Everybody in the media knew what a remarkable quality the change possessed, and all were anxious to see how bad or stupid or racist their neighbors were.
“I shall send my honest old minister to the campaign strategists,” thought the emperor. “He can judge best how the change looks, for he is intelligent, and nobody understands his office better than he.”
The good old minister went into the room where the campaign strategists sat before the empty rhetoric. “Heaven preserve us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all,” but he did not say so. Both campaign strategists requested that he come near, and asked him if he did not admire the exquisite pattern and the beautiful spin, pointing to the empty rhetoric. The poor old minister tried his very best, but he could see nothing, for there was nothing to be seen. “Oh, dear,” he thought, “can I be so stupid? I should never have thought so, and nobody must know it! Is it possible that I am not fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the change.”
“Now, have you got nothing to say?” said one of the campaign strategists, while he pretended to be busily weaving his campaign rhetoric.
“Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly beautiful,” replied the old minister, looking through his glasses. “What a beautiful kind of change, what brilliant change! I shall tell the emperor that I like the change very much.”
“We are pleased to hear that,” said the two campaign strategists, and described to him the change and explained the curious pattern. The old minister listened attentively, that he might relate to the presidential candidate what they said; and so he did.
Now the campaign strategists asked for more money, more campaign workers and more change, which they required for weaving their rhetoric. They kept everything for themselves, and not a real policy came near the campaign headquarters, but they continued, as hitherto, to work at the empty rhetoric.
Soon afterwards the presidential candidate sent another honest member of the media to the campaign strategists to see how they were getting on, and if the change was nearly finished. Like the old minister, he looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen.
“Is it not a beautiful piece of change?” asked the two campaign gurus, showing and explaining the magnificent pattern rhetoric, which, however, did not mean anything.
“I am not stupid,” said the man. “It is therefore my good appointment for which I am not fit. It is very strange, but I must not let anyone know it;” and he praised the change, which he did not see, and expressed his joy at the beautiful rhetoric and the fine spin. “It is very excellent,” he said to the presidential candidate.
Everybody in the whole town talked about the precious change. At last the presidential candidate wished to see it himself, while it was still on the loom. With a number of the media, including the two who had already been there, he went to the two clever campaign gurus, who now worked as hard as they could, but without using any policy.
“Is it not magnificent?” said the two old statesmen who had been there before. “Your Majesty must admire the change and the spin.” And then they pointed to the empty rhetoric, for they imagined the others could see the change.
What is this? thought the presidential candidate, I do not see anything at all. That is terrible! Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be president? That would indeed be the most dreadful thing that could happen to me.
“Really,” he said, turning to the weavers, “your change has our most gracious approval,” and nodding contentedly he looked at the empty rhetoric, for he did not like to say that he saw nothing. All his attendants, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything more than the others, they said, like the presidential candidate, “It is very beautiful.” And all advised him to proclaim the great change at a great procession, which was soon to take place. “It is magnificent, beautiful, excellent,” one heard them say; everybody seemed to be delighted, and the candidate appointed the two swindlers “Imperial Court strategists.”
The whole night previous to the day on which the procession was to take place, the strategists pretended to work, and burned more than 16 candles. The media should see that they were busy to finish the candidate’s new change. They pretended to take the policies, and worked about in the air with new commercials, and spun the newspapers without shame, and said at last: “This is change we can all believe in.”
The candidate and all his barons then came to the hall; the strategists held their arms up as if they held something in their hands and said: “These are the economic policies!” “This is the energy policy!” and “Here is the healthcare policy!” and so on. “They are all as light on details, and one must feel as if one had nothing at all upon the laws; but that is just the beauty of them.”
“Indeed!” said all the media; but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to be seen.
“Does it please Your Highness now to graciously debate,” said the strategy, “that we may assist Your Majesty in putting on the change before the people?”
The emperor spoke, and the strategists pretended to put the new direction upon the country, one policy after another; and the presidential candidate looked at himself in the glass from every side.
“How well they work! How well they fit!” said all. “What a beautiful speech! What fine polices! That is a magnificent campaign!”
The master of the ceremonies announced that the campaign was ready.
“I am ready,” said the candidate. “Does not my campaign look wonderful?” Then he turned once more to the looking-glass, that people should think he admired his change.
The newspapermen, who were to carry the story on their front pages, stretched their story as if the candidate had real policies and pretended to hold a new direction in their papers; they did not like people to know that they could not see anything.
The candidate marched across the country under a beautiful banner that read, “Change we can believe in!” and all the media who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the candidate’s change is incomparable! What a big campaign he has! How well it fits us!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his job in the media. Never a candidate’s promise of change was more admired.
“But he has done nothing at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! Listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has done nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the candidate, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the media walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the candidate’s promise of change, which did not exist.
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