Category Archives: marketing
Compare Michigan and Pennsylvania. Donald Trump clearly won the latter through a massive turnout of rarely-votes in the middle of the state (see www.philly.com/philly/infographics/400507161.html) and appears to have won the former by winning over previous Democrat voters (see www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/11/11/donald-trump-michigan-counties-clinton/93641908/) – though more analysis will give a better picture.
That’s two entirely different ways of winning, in two important states.
Obama in the contested 2008 Primary had a successful State-by-State win plan: did Trump have the same in 2016? These different patterns in two critical states suggest perhaps he did.
Kellyanne Conway was his final campaign manager http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/the-woman-who-made-president-trump/news-story/766f339657fcb2429068b200adf166b5 and deserves major credit for his victory, but she took over only a scant 12 weeks out from election day – could she have created and executed such a state-by-state plan in so short a time? Her predecessors, incompetent and possibly corrupt, seem unlikely to have had such insight and coherence.
Insider-tell-all books after the 2008 and 2012 election cycle answered many questions about internal strategy development – the 2016 version may tell us whether there was such a plan, or whether luck and happenstance played a bigger part.
However, Kellyanne achieved in less than three months something much more formidable: she created a new candidate and a new election, and hence a winning coalition, by taming Trump.
Before the Presidential Debates, Trump had set about making himself the outsider who could upturn politics-as-usual and fix a failed system. His plain speaking, deliberately provocative and deliberately different from Republican orthodoxy, had built a loyal following amongst those alienated from the “American Dream”, but failed to broadly inspire evangelical Christians, and alienated moderate Republicans. His support, lacking those two components of the Republican base, was insufficient for victory.
Just prior to the October 19 third debate, his language moderated, his insults decreased, and the content of his ad-hoc statements became more coherent. At the third debate, he pivoted, pressed the case for the Republican Right’s hot-button policies, and they flocked to his banner. Post-debate, he became increasingly a more polished and less alienating candidate. Some of the moderate Republicans, contemplating voting for Hillary, moved back to the fold.
To the Republican base, Trump now looked – more-or-less – like a Republican.
Quite suddenly, the Clinton campaign faced a different candidate, who now led a coalition of the disaffected and the Republican base, to which they had no adequate counter. It’s not even clear they noticed the new candidate.
(Half of Ethical Consulting Services (Mike) has been embedded in the campaign since mid-October.)
Close observation of US Presidential election campaigns shows the enormous and negative impact of voluntary voting. Starry-eyed* Australians say voluntary voting simply means voters won’t be forced to choose between candidates they dislike.
They’re wrong – the differences between voluntary and compulsory voting are far-reaching.
US election campaigns – Presidential particularly – must devote massive resources to enrolling voters** which raises the cost, which puts pressure on candidates and parties to be constantly in fundraiser mode. Many senior campaign advisors say candidates should spend half their time fundraising. The voluntary nature of voting puts even greater pressures on the system and contributes to making US elections the money-pit and money-deformed system they are.
Four weeks out from election day, every last bit of local activity on the ground switches from being about voter enrolment to nagging people to vote – forget any thought of a high-minded contest of ideas. Every. Last. Bit. Of. Local. Activity.
But the bigger problem is the way voluntary enrolment and voting change the discussion.
In Australia’s compulsory voting system, knowing*** every voter is likely to vote, candidates and campaign strategists have to generate in each voter merely a mild preference between, say, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. In the US system, candidates and campaign strategists have to generate in each voter a preference so strong that it motivates them to vote, usually on a working day when they don’t have to bother – a motivating preference.
That’s done through the use of language and persuasion tactics much more extreme than we usually see in Australia – the kind of campaign Australians say they find revolting: blowing minor differences into massive schisms, the most hyperbolic descriptions, careful mischaracterisation of the other side, pressing questions as though they were fact, aggressive and divisive language, and so on. They all go to minimise any prospect of bipartisanship, political dialogue, or cross-party cooperation, anywhere in the political system.
In seeking to de-legitimise the opponent, they trash the institution; to save the village from falling to the enemy, they destroy the village.
There’s another issue, too: there’s a contract involved in voting – an exchange of obligations, a reciprocity – that lends the outcome legitimacy, and burdens the victor with obligations. Those who participate in society by voting have a stake in its institutions, behaviours and success, and in exchange for them participating in elections, society and in particular the elected Government owes voters respect and recognition. Acknowledgement of reciprocal obligations and legitimacies is weaker, and hence the existence of those things is weaker, between Governments and non-voters.
These consequences, driven so much by voluntary voting, tell a substantial part of the story behind the complete inability of the US system of Government, to govern.
(Half of the Ethical Consulting Services team – that would be Mike – will be embedded within the US Presidential campaign, from today up to US Election Day on 8 November.)
* And some who just want electoral advantage
** Enrolment is voluntary, too.
*** Presuming rather than knowing, but that’s another discussion entirely.