Discovering that John Boehner made his living as a plastics salesman was not entirely surprising, but telling. Even the most cursory movie-goer in my age group will remember "The Graduate" being given just one word of advice, "plastics," by his wanna-be mentor.
In 1963, when the novel was written, that the artificial was going to dominate American culture really hadn't yet registered. Much less that everything was going to be wrapped in plastic, which is what Boehner was into--packaging, security and advertising in one.
Also telling is that Boehner wasn't into making the stuff. He was just a pusher or promoter. Public persuasion, the ideal background for the modern conservative politician peddling a secure future that's all shiny and bright, was just beginning to take off.
I used to think that government as public relations hit its full stride with the arrival of Ronald Reagan and his entourage of mediocre script-writers and Hollywood hacks in Wallywood on the Potomac. But, political salesmanship is just the tip of the ice-berg. In the last four decades, American society has been over-run by an army of middlemen, salesmen--people selling things and taking a "cut" of goods and services about which they know little and care less.
Being a salesman used to be an honorable career. The salesman took up a position at the nexus of the producer and consumer, the seller and buyer, on whom the latter could rely to guarantee that the experience one got from a purchase would be mostly what one had been led to expect -- that the shoe would fit and the food would nourish and the umbrella would keep off the rain. I mention the latter because that's what my father used to sell, umbrellas. So, I have a certain affection for the salesman who knows his products and his clients and tries to match them well.
Presumably, there were always untrustworthy salesmen. Snake-oil salesmen are a well-known breed. Presumably, they had a patter which led their customers on to expect more than they'd ever get. Did they have pretty bottles? No doubt. And stoppers that didn't come out so the buyer could take a whiff? Very likely. Obviously, the discovery of plastic packaging has made the possibility of the ruse being discovered up front much less likely. Buyers can be as wary as they like, when you can't inspect what's inside, you get what you get and had better be satisfied, or not.
Salesmen here, salesmen there. We are swamped by salesmen. There's health insurance and car insurance and burial insurance and life insurance and a host of new "products" put out by financial engineers that have no connection to anything that's real. There's no pig in that poke.
But, I used to think that government by public relations was designed to hide politicians intent on enriching themselves and their friends by putting out nothing but hot air. More recently, it's become obvious that what may have started as an effort to deceive, to sell empty packages that look appealing, has turned rather vicious. No longer content to take advantage of the gullible public, the salesmen in Wallywood are peddling poison and calling it "shared sacrifice."
The death of the salesmen has been greatly exaggerated. They're out in full force, selling death. The exterminator, Tom Delay, has been replaced by the plastics salesman, John Boehner.