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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Mad Men Foretells a Change in Politics, Too

May 1, 2013

Don Draper is a super hero to many men.

I’m not sure how women look at him though - that may be a mixed bag.

Don Draper is the lead character in AMC’s award winning series, Mad Men, a sexy drama about life on Madison Avenue in New York City during the 1960s. Draper is the creative director of the fictitious ad agency Sterling Cooper.

He’s smart, talented; has a beautiful wife, and usually ends up in an extramarital affair at the end of each episode. More so, Draper is a man’s man, unfettered by the world around him, he plays by rules of his own choosing, and promulgates a world of political incorrectness. He uses women for his own gratification, and as the show moves through the 60s, that seems to be fine with them, up to this point.

In the 1950s, and early 60s, life was predictable, and there was a hierarchy where men ruled, and women did what was asked of them. This was the essence of the first four seasons of Mad Men. As the 60s march on, Mad Men is changing, as are the roles and attitudes of the women characters on the show.

There are parallels between the show and the state of politics. In the past, voters blindly returned incumbents to office at a rate of 98.2%, and rarely, if ever, challenged the notion that a newcomer could do a better job than the incumbent. In effect, they listened to those in power, and went along with what was asked of them.

As Mad Men has moved forward in time, writers are changing that premise, and depicting a changing society with stronger women characters, and conflicts involving race and the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King was assassinated on last week's show, and society and the characters are changing from such real-life historical events.

The show is reflecting how stuck people sometimes are and how complicated life gets when things start to change.

This theory can easily be applied to politics. For decades voters were unable to distinguish between those public officials who were doing a good job, and those who were not. The result was a staggering re-election rate for incumbents, and in Washington congressional stagnation.

With the advent of the 24/7 news cycle, and access to issues through cable news and the Internet, voters now assert themselves into the political process. The result has been a tidal wave of political change as voters now regularly toss out incumbents who aren't doing the job.

Voters have more tools to analyze an incumbent's record, and with so many issues of controversy swirling about, it's easy for a politician to fall out of favor quickly.

As Mad Men enters another season of change, Don Draper’s life is about to be turned upside down. It will be interesting to see how he handles the changes about to come his way.

The same thing is true in the world of politics. There are more changes coming and it will interesting to see how both voters and elected officials handle the new developments.