Creator Matthew Weiner isn’t going to talk about it. Democrats haven’t quite noticed it. But there seems to be an undeniable connection between AMC’s marquee television program “Mad Men” and the fiscally conservative and libertarian factions of the Grand Old Party.
Recently, there have been a couple of events — the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual gala in June and last week’s DC Republican Committee “35 most influential Republicans under 35” reception — that have used the hit show about the world of 1960s New York City advertising as the theme.
The CEI event even created a parody of the television show called “Maddening Ad Men Visit CEI.”
“Well, basically what we’re offering is an opportunity for a mea culpa,” two schlubby advertising guys tell the boardroom. “An ‘I’m sorry,’ if you will. Look, folks, our research shows this free-market stuff, it just doesn’t go over well these days. I mean, it’s not popular with the young generation.”
The camera cuts to two young guys with skinny ties.
“It’s not popular with women,” the maddening ad men continue. “Who even knows what women want anyway? Am I right?”
The camera cuts to a woman rolling her eyes. The maddening ad men go on to suggest that perhaps the guys at CEI, a libertarian think tank, “have just gotten carried away with this liberty stuff.”
Stop fighting subsidized milk, they say. Just apologize!
Of course, the suggestion is that back in Don Draper’s day, no businessman would ever bow to government subsidies or apologize for using the system to make money.
CEI Founder Fred Smith said during the gala that the 21st-century business community is far too apologetic, and he suggested that attitude is something to be ashamed of.
After the 2008 economic downturn, the wars in the Middle East, rampant un- and under-employment and the rise of the Occupy movement, the free marketers seem to be longing for the time when business was king.
“I think there is this element of nostalgia,” said Marin Cogan, GQ’s Washington correspondent who wrote about and attended the CEI event.
“Mad Men” is a show where “men sell products and goods. They don’t apologize for their capitalism,” she said. “[Today’s generation of business leaders] came out of this sort of heady time of the 1990s through the aughts, then there were a couple of major market crashes.”
Since President Barack Obama took office, however, there has been the re-emergence of faith — at least by Washington Democrats — in Keynesian economics and another segment of society that questions the premises of capitalism.
The creative director of MassiveMusic New York,
Elijah Torn, agreed.
The show, he said, “is a return what they think their values were. Drinking was OK, smoking was OK. It was a more hands-off time period where people toughened up and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.”
The 1960s, of course, weren’t that simple. It was a time of high taxation and fundamental social change, especially for minorities and women.
The Good Old Days
In the 1950s and 1960s, things were different, says Noel Cottrell, chief creative officer with Fitzgerald + Co. advertising agency.
The ad men of Madison Avenue had a lot of swagger then, but the advertising world isn’t quite what it was — gone are the days of three martini lunches and sex in the office.
Cottrell says that culture seems like a more accurate portrayal of Wall Street bankers.
Brandon Andrew, head of the NAACP political action committee, was named one of the top 35 Republicans to watch and was feted at the “Mad Men”-themed reception.
Andrew said he hadn’t considered the strange image of a black man being honored at a party with a theme about those last days of a segregated industry.
“When I think about the party theme, it’s not the first thing that would come to mind for me,” Andrew said. “Most people look at the ‘Mad Men’ theme about the style of dress and ... of course the other things that are unsavory and are blemishes on that period.
“I would honestly think that women would have more of an issue and a legitimate gripe, as opposed to minorities,” he said.