Or: how to lose independents and still win an election. More on the dark arts of public persuasion.
This was Alinsky-style community organizing, writ national, powered by social media. Channel hatred of The Other to mobilize the troops. Bonus: in this case it’s OK because The Other is somehow privileged. Extra bonus: social media means it can last 24/7 instead of just 2 minutes. We don’t have to gather, we don’t even have to watch at the same time.
Sigh. This is probably not a great development for a political system that was designed to (and relies upon) cool small-d democratic excesses. Our checks and balances exist because majorities (50%+1) aren’t always right and populism, while healthy in small dosages, is dangerous in large. A bit like chemotherapy.
We’re a continent-spanning republic, made of diverse peoples, united by… honestly I’m not so sure any more. When divisive tactics work so thoroughly well, on such a large scale, it can’t be a good sign. It’s one thing to organize tenants against a cruel landlord; it’s something else to organize 50% of the country against the other 50% by painting the latter as a cruel landlord(s).
h/t Daniel Henninger in the WSJ – Barack Obama’s Persuasion Army
The Obama “turnout machine” wasn’t faceless. It was real people living full-time, some much of the past four years, in battleground states such as Ohio, Iowa and Virginia. They attended full-time to targeted racial, ethnic and labor constituencies, as the campaign did in 2008. Obama adviser David Plouffe calls them “the persuasion army.” I would call it a skilled propaganda machine.
The job of the Obama persuasion army was to make sure that those targets never stopped having their heads filled via emails, phone calls, meetings and such with what Barack Obama was saying as president… This wasn’t just a presidency. It was a political corporation producing political product.
One view is that this merely adapts to politics the private sector’s advanced marketing techniques, and that the GOP should do the same. … But if the Republican Party uses high-velocity information the way the Obama campaign did, American politics will be waged as a wall-to-wall propaganda war. Policy ideas will be devalued.
It was conventional wisdom in September and October that other than subsidies for student loans, infrastructure and alternative-energy jobs, Barack Obama was running a largely idea-free campaign, with the press and voters left to guess at a second-term agenda.
…Once past ObamaCare, the president spent his first term creating these wedge issues and wedge people for his re-election. Simultaneously, his field operations were driving these wedges into the heads of the Obama base of minorities, single women and campus voters. Using national politics in this way is known as agitprop.
By the time the election arrived, the Obama base had been prepped, instructed and delivered to vote against half the country. The Obama campaign didn’t have to turn them out. The relentless negative messaging never let them turn off. By the way, while Mr. Romney took the independent vote away from the president, some analysts now argue that the Obama victory coalition suggests the independents don’t matter.
Going forward, the personal takedown of one’s opponent is the new baseline for a national campaign.
h/t Janet Daley, in The Telegraph – America has become an Old World Country
So Europe got the American president it wanted – the one who would present no threat to its own delusions. The United States is now officially one of us: an Old World country complete with class hatred, ethnic Balkanisation, bourgeois guilt and a paternalist ruling elite. And it is locked into the same death spiral of high public spending and self-defeating wealth redistribution as we are. Welcome to the future, and the beginning of what may turn out to be the terminal decline of the West.
It has become clear why it was so easy to misjudge the significance of the apparently lacklustre Obama campaign – the drastically reduced crowds at his events; his underwhelming, peevish performances in the debates, and his failure to produce any substantive plan for a second term – as signs of how the election would go. Mitt Romney may have pulled far larger and more enthusiastic audiences for his stump speeches but this contest was not, in the end, going to be about speeches or arguments. The reason that so many of those who would vote for the incumbent president did not bother to turn out to see him as he toured the country was that they were largely untouched by the campaign: their voting allegiance was always a certainty. It was not about political ideas at all. It was about identity: about who and what you were in the most visceral and personal sense – about race, about class, about being the kind of person you believed it was necessary to be.
The saddest development is the one that is most counter-intuitive. Mr Obama – who famously ran in 2008 as the post-racial candidate – has polarised the nation racially in a way that it has not been for half a century, reversing what had been the progressive trend toward real social integration and colour blindness in American political life.
The United States has now acquired an electorally powerful liberal bourgeoisie who are convinced, as their European counterparts have been for several generations, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that public spending is inherently virtuous, that poverty can be cured by penalising wealth creation, and that government intervention can engineer social “fairness”. But just when some of Europe’s political class has begun to appreciate the dangers of this philosophy – that taken to its logical conclusion, it leads to economic stagnation and social division – America seems to have decided that it is the quintessence of enlightened sophistication.