My friend Tom Friedman passed on a story to me the other day that came to him from an advertising guy who had been at a seminar for ad people.
Someone had asked the question, "Why didn't Burger King ever really go after McDonald's?"
In other words, why didn't they get dirty, go negative, and try to take down the industry leader?
The answer came back: "First rule of advertising: Never destroy the category. It's not worth destroying the hamburger industry just to take down your most successful competitor."
The more I thought about that - and the sorry state of American politics these days - the more it made me wonder.
In their effort to destroy each other, are the Republican and Democratic Parties on the verge of destroying the category - politics? The whole political system?
We're not there yet, but as I watch our campaigns begin earlier and earlier, and as our government becomes more and more gridlocked, unable to do anything, we may be close.
Remember when campaigns were the interval between governing?
Now governing has become the brief interval between campaigns - and not just campaigns that are vicious, but as meaningless as they are mean.
It is no longer a question of what has the government done for us lately - the answer is nothing. But the looming and larger question now is just how much damage has all this done to the system itself, and can it be repaired before the whole thing blows apart?