Hi, I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC: What your political party and computer affiliations may have in common

By Andrew Mason

According to recent reports, Apple Computer dropped Justin Long (the Mac guy) from its Get a Mac campaign ads because focus groups said that they ended up liking John Hodgman (the PC guy, also of “The Daily Show” fame) better. The ads show Hodgman as a lovable dork who seems to bear the brunt of the jokes while Long is the cool guy with all the answers.

Meanwhile, the Democrats swept into power across the country last week and most of punditry places the blame on President Bush. So let’s take a trip down analogy lane.

Choosing a computer is a lot like choosing a government: Most people are clueless about the inner workings of both, but everybody needs one. For the past 12 years, the GOP has succeeded in portraying Democrats as Apple portrayed Hodgman and the PCs: ineffectual, prone to problems and ultimately the wrong way to do the work of the American people. In reality, there are few technical differences between them Republicans (Macs) and Democrats (PCs), but the broader perception that Macs are easier to use appeals to a lot of non-technical people.

The report speculated that audiences agreed with Slate’s Seth Stevenson when he said Mac came off as a “smug, little twit.” He went on to say that Long reinforced a stereotype of Mac people by being an “unshaven, hoodie-wearing, hands-in-pockets hipster” that Apple has been trying to dispel. Even though PC is portrayed as awkward and complicated, audiences seem to identify more with the uncool Hodgman.

Bush has gotten a lot of mileage out of being the plain-spoken, laid back man of the people who promises to make government simpler. Bush, clearly a Mac, is being friendly to Democrats after the election but like Long, he’s still secure in his superiority despite mounting evidence to the contrary. President MacBush reassures that we don’t have to worry about viruses and spyware or crashes because bad things just won’t happen when you’re using him. The PC crowd (Democrats) on the other hand, while capable of protecting themselves, are constantly worried about everything and trying to play it safe. To Long, anybody who thinks PCs are better on security and reliability is just plain wrong.

For Bush, people don’t need to know a lot about how the government works because he’s all they need to get things done. Macs offer the same promise. Democrats tend to encourage a more multi-faceted philosophy of government but in the process fall victim to the same problems as PCs do: resource conflicts, over-analysis and incompatible programs.

In truth, PCs are just as technically capable as Macs. A good Democratic philosophy is just as viable as a good Republican one. I see the need for a 21st century culture to have a thorough understanding of computers, but I also see the need for a 21st century democracy to have a thorough understanding of government.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we started to not care about either. Simple Macintoshes rose to challenge a complicated PC-world. The Republicans that were voted out of office last week represented a Bush-led Mac view of the government. While people still possess varying degrees of enthusiasm for Democrats and their PCs, they smartly realized that sometimes an eternally complicated government needs a complicated solution.

That’s not to say Democrats (PCs) are always your best choice. After all, it is entirely possible for Republicans (Macs) to be the better option. But blind loyalty based on disinformation toward one brand or another is a recipe for a crash, just like what the GOP had last week. But like Mac’s market share, it is not dead and if anything, still growing.

The key for the immediate future is to do a lot of troubleshooting on the government. Expect Democrats to push ctrl+alt+del a lot to find out what’s really been going on behind the scenes. But in the meantime, Apple and the GOP need to find a better sales pitch.