Ready for a long night of following the Iowa caucus.
…and whichever way the democrats vote tonight Hillary Clinton is gonna be their candidate. There´ll be plenty of talk about how competitive and exciting the race is but Sanders doesnt have a hope in hell when it comes to counting delegates in the end.
…Sanders is no Obama. Sadly, neither is Hillary. She´s about as dull, lacking in visions and carrying in nasty luggage as it gets … but she´ll still be the nominate. If she becomes president is probably a matter of who the republicans run against her – shes weak and nothingy enough to beat – but it might take someone not entirely fanatically demented (so that rules out Cruz, Trump, Huckabee, Santorum and so forth) … so, tonight its Rubio vs Bush vs Kasich vs Christie … and alot of republicans prolly wont really care so long as at least 2 of those drop out shortly … and if they all fail and Cruz/Trump are the last men standing, Hillary can have an early zip of that champagne.Read more
Modern political campaigns have set new standards for how successful campaigns are conducted day-to-day. The campaign is conducted in what would seem to the public like pseudo-military style, with a strict chain of command, zero tolerance for certain prohibited actions, and an extended daily schedule that starts early and ends much later than most “day jobs.”
Prohibited actions may include, but are not limited to: lying about numbers generated (e.g. phone calls made, doors knocked, volunteers recruited, etc.) – this is increasingly an issue in offices that are wirelessly connected, without direct oversight; going outside the chain of command (e.g. talking to a superior’s superior who happens to be a friend in order to get special favors or report information); non-press-shop members talking to the press; blogging (considered another form of “talking to the press,” which can interfere with message discipline); and being arrested (or otherwise becoming a potential easy target for opponent smear campaigns).
The daily schedule of a political campaign is hyperextended, and often has no definite beginning or end, only a series of tasks to be completed by certain benchmark times (or, most often, “COB” (“close of business”). COB for political campaigns is generally defined as “the time at night at which your supervisor is required to report his/her numbers” (or shortly beforehand), so that your numbers reporting (generally the last action a political campaigner takes before COB) can be factored into theirs. For example, a Field Organizer may have collected 9 new committed volunteers for an event during the day; he will be required to report this at 8:45pm to his Regional Field Director, so that the Regional can report that all Field Organizers in the region recruited 52 total volunteers for said event; which needs to be reported to the Deputy State Field Director by 9:00, so that THEY can speak to the State Field Director at 9:15 and report that 827 volunteers have been recruited for events around the state; and so on, up the chain of command.
Once each of these reporting sequences is finished, organizers at all levels may do paperwork, send emails, call friends, and do other things which are not effective to do during business hours or “voter contact time.” Political campaigns are generally about contacting voters and volunteers at the nuts-and-bolts level; and so dependent on state law, local peculiarities and the preferences of campaign organizers and volunteers, a certain block of time (usually ending at 8pm or 9pm) is set aside each night for “voter/volunteer contact.” (Violation of this block of time to conduct other activities often cannot happen or needs a strong justification, such as attending an important meeting.) Only a very small fraction of campaign workers (such as people who deal with vendors) do the bulk of their work during traditional business hours.Read more
The message of the campaign contains the ideas that the candidate wants to share with the voters. The message often consists of several talking points about policy issues. The points summarize the main ideas of the campaign and are repeated frequently in order to create a lasting impression with the voters. In many elections, the opposition party will try to get the candidate “off message” by bringing up policy or personal questions that are not related to the talking points. Most campaigns prefer to keep the message broad in order to attract the most potential voters. A message that is too narrow can alienate voters or slow the candidate down with explaining details. For example, in the election of 2008 John McCain originally used a message that focused on his patriotism and political experience: “Country First”; later the message was changed to shift attention to his role as “The Original Maverick” within the political establishment. Barack Obama ran on a consistent, simple message of “change” throughout his campaign. If the message is crafted carefully, it will assure the candidate a victory at the polls. For a winning candidate, the message is refined and then becomes his or her political agenda in office.
The habit of modern Western media outlets (especially radio and television) of taking short excerpts from speeches has resulted in the creation of the term “soundbite”. Examples might include:
- “John Doe is a businessman, not a politician. His background in finance means he can bring fiscal discipline to state government.”
- “As our society faces a rapid upswing in violent crime and an ever worsening education system, we need leaders who will keep our streets safe and restore accountability to our schools. John Doe is that leader.”
- “Over the past four years, John Doe has missed over fifty City Council meetings. How can you lead if you don’t show up? Jane Doe won’t turn a blind eye to the government.”
Permanent campaign is a theory of political science conceived by Patrick Caddell, then a young pollster for U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who wrote a memo on December 10, 1976 entitled “Initial Working Paper on Political Strategy”.
“Essentially,” Caddell wrote, “it is my thesis governing with public approval requires a continuing political campaign.”
The phrase “the permanent campaign,” its concept and history, were first defined by journalist and later Clinton presidential senior adviser Sidney Blumenthal in his 1980 book, “The Permanent Campaign.” In it, he explained how the changes in American politics from old-style patronage and party organization to that based on the modern technology of computer driven polling and media created a fundamentally new system. He explained that political consultants had replaced the party bosses and brought with them a new model by which campaigning became the forms of governing.
Blumenthal’s work resolved the problem in political science of “critical realignment.” According to Walter Dean Burnham, the leading political scientist of realignment theory, “If we view the arena of American electoral politics in historical perspective, we can say that the contemporary status quo extends back to some point in the mid-to-late 1960s. In his recent study, The Permanent Campaign, Sidney Blumenthal has advanced the argument that a critical realignment in fact occurred at about the point–1968–where many analysts had been expecting. They were, however, looking for realiagnment in the wrong place. For crucial to this one, and the ‘sixth electoral era’ which he argues followed from it, was the exact opposite of all previous events of this type. Instead of being channeled through–and thus revitalizing–the political parties, this realignment involved the conclusive marginal displacement of these parties by the permanent campaign…. The older linkages between rulers and ruled become ever hazier, ever more problematic.” (See Walter Dean Burnham, “The 1984 Election and the Future of American Politics,” in Ellis Sandoz and C.V. Crabb, Jr., ed., Election 84: Landslide without Mandate, New American Library, 1985, p. 206.)
Strategies of this nature have been in active development and use since Lyndon Johnson, where priority is given to short-term tactical gain over long-term vision. The frenzied, headline-grabbing atmosphere of presidential campaigns is carried over into the office itself, thus creating a permanent campaign that limits the ability of policies to deviate from the perceived will of the people (hence, intensive polling).
A famous example that illustrates just how strongly this mind-set has come to influence politics was during the Clinton Administration when pollster Dick Morris asked voters to help decide where Bill Clinton would go on vacation. In the words of columnist Joe Klein, “The pressure to ‘win’ the daily news cycle—to control the news—has overwhelmed the more reflective, statesmanlike aspects of the office.”
Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary for U.S. President George W. Bush, wrote in his 2008 memoir What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception that the Bush White House suffered from a “permanent campaign” mentality, and that policy decisions were inextricably interwoven with politics.Read more
Microtargeting is the use by political parties and election campaigns of direct marketing datamining techniques that involve predictive market segmentation (aka cluster analysis). It is used by United States Republican and Democratic political parties and candidates to track individual voters and identify potential supporters.
They then use various means of communication–direct mail, phone calls, home visits, television, radio, web advertising, email, text messaging, etc–to communicate with voters, crafting messages to build support for fundraising, campaign events, volunteering, and eventually to turn them out to the polls on election day. Microtargeting’s tactics rely on transmitting a tailored message to a subgroup of the electorate on the basis of unique information about that subgroup.
Although some of the tactics of microtargeting had been used in California since 1992, it really started to be used nationally only in 2004. In that year, Karl Rove, along with Blaise Hazelwood at the Republican National Committee, used it to reach voters in 18 states that George W. Bush’s reelection campaign was not able to reach by other means. The results were greater contacts with likely Bush voters. For example, in Iowa the campaign was able to reach 92% of eventual Bush voters (compared to 50% in 2000) and in Florida it was able to reach 84% (compared to 50% in 2000). Much of this pioneering work was done by Alex Gage and his firm, TargetPoint Consulting.
Democrats did only limited microtargeting in 2004, with some crediting microtargeting for Kerry’s win in Iowa in 2004. Some news accounts credited Republican superiority in that area for victories in that election cycle. Democrats later developed microtargeting capabilities for the 2006 election cycle. “It’s no secret that the other side [Republicans] figured this out a little sooner”, said Josh Syrjamaki, director of the Minnesota chapter of America Votes in October 2006. “They’ve had four to six years’ jump on us on this stuff…but we feel like we can start to catch up.”
Microtargeting is a modification of a practice used by commercial direct marketers. It would not be possible on a large scale without the development of large and sophisticated databases that contain data about as many voters as possible. The database essentially tracks voter habits in the same ways that companies like Visa track consumer spending habits. The Republican National Committee’s database is called Voter Vault. The Democratic National Committee effort is called VoteBuilder. A parallel Democratic effort is being developed by Catalist, a $9 million initiative headed by Harold Ickes, while the leading non-partisan database is offered by Aristotle.
The databases contain specific information about a particular voter (party affiliation, frequency of voting, contributions, volunteerism, etc.) with other activities and habits available from commercial marketing vendors such as Acxiom, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Americas, and InfoUSA. Such personal information is a “product” sold to interested companies. These data are particularly illuminating when portrayed through a Geographic Information System (GIS), where trends based on location can be mapped alongside dozens or hundreds of other variables. This geographic depiction also makes it ideal for volunteers to visit potential voters (armed with lists in hand, laid out in the shortest route – much like how FedEx and UPS pre-determine delivery routes).
These databases are then mined to identify issues important to each voter and whether that voter is more likely to identify with one party or another. Political information is obviously important here, but consumer preferences can play a role as well. Individual voters are then put into groups on the basis of sophisticated computer modeling. Such groups have names like “Downscale Union Independents”, “Tax and Terrorism Moderates,” and “Older Suburban Newshounds.”
Once a multitude of voting groups is established according to these criteria and their minute political differences, then the tailored messages can be sent via the appropriate means. While political parties and candidates once prepared a single television advertisement for general broadcast nationwide, it is now not at all uncommon to have several dozen variations on the one message, each with a unique and tailored message for that small demographic sliver of the voting public. This is the same for radio advertisement, direct mail, email, as well as stump speeches and fundraising events.Read more
Happy Independence Day – and cheers to those standing firm on the original constitution.Read more
Happy 1st of May to all you workers outhhere!Read more
International Workers Day – we stand neutral…but happy 1st of may to all the socialists out waving their banners!Read more
American political campaigns have become heavily reliant on broadcast media and direct mail advertising (typically designed and purchased through specialized consultants). Though virtually all campaign media are sometimes used at all levels (even candidates for local office have been known to purchase cable TV ads), smaller, lower-budget campaigns are typically more focused on direct mail, low-cost advertising (such as lawn signs), and direct voter contact. This reliance on expensive advertising is a leading factor behind the rise in the cost of running for office in the United States. This rising cost is considered by some to discourage those without well-monied connections, or money themselves, from running for office.Read more
Scottish minister of transport Stewart Stevenson has been frozen out of office. Not by his fellow minister, parliament or his civil servants, but by the utter chaos caused by snow in Scotland that he failed to find prevent or find any solutions to. Apparently conditions in the scottish highlands were rather awful, airports were closed, thousands were trapped on motorways between Edinburgh and Glasgow, some even stumbled on their way to the pub.
Of course, the scots dont put up with such things and Stewart Stevenson had to take full responsibility, pack his back bag and leave office. Read that again, the minister took responsibility, declared himself a failure and left. They may be frozen fools but the scots sure have more spine than most politicians.
Now think about George W. Bush and his handling of Katrina.Read more
Suicide bombers are not funny. A trail of tragedy follow in the path of these fanatics, whatever their beliefs, reasons and motivations. Equally, a suicide bomber is next to impossible to stop, as most security measures aim at making agression so threatening, dangerous or involving such a high risk of getting caught, that it simply isnt worth the effort. All such measures are of course in vain, if the danger is relevant and the risk of getting caught only includes finding the body.
All that said, I almost had to smile when reading the news that someone had done a suicide bombing in Sweden. Not because its a funny thing to do, but because the stated reasons in a mail from the suicide bomber gives “the swedish involvement in Afghanistan” and “the muhammed cartoons” as reasons. My first reaction was, uhm, does Sweden actually have any military involvement in Afghanistan? I was aware Denmark had a few soldiers hiding in a british base in Helmand, but I had never heard of swedish military there. A bit of googling enlightened me, they do indeed have some 4-500 soldiers in Afghanistan somewhere. Fair enough. Low profile and barely enough of a crowd to make coffee for the real armies there, but I guess its the thought that counts. My second thought was, uhm, the muhammed cartoons were done by danish artists for a danish book and infamously reprinted in the danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. Did this guy miss the busstop in Copenhagen and just randomly drive on into sweden?
It seem though that the muhammed cartoons, stupid and offensive as they were, had been reprinted later on in Sweden as well, and as such I suppose the suicide bombers points were valid, although his actions obviously horrid and wrong. But. Why target Sweden I wonder? Their involvement is about the smallest of any country involved in Afghanistan and some private newspaper reprinting what had already been published in other countries and produced by danes doesnt exactly strike me as something that would spur anyone into enough of a rage to consider suicide bombing. But then, admittedly, I dont really understand the logic driving anyone to that stage in the first place.
I hope the suicide bomber was basically a lone nutter, obsessed with whatever weird beliefs he may have held and acting on his own in an act of insane determination to make his mark on the world. As far as I have been able to find out so far, nobody but himself got killed, however two people were injured. Lets pray it stays at that.Read more
London is currently experiencing the most agressive and violent riots in the streets since the Thatcher years. The demonstrations are lead, organised and carried out by students, presumably backed by militant anarchists, thucks and opportunist troublemakers. So far, several building such as the treasury has been utterly trashed, several police officers have been attacked and hospitalised, no other than prince Charles have had his car smashed up and so forth.
The students are angry, well furious, that the government havent disbanded tuition fees – and indeed tripled them instead. Now, they had probably expected that from the conservatives but the students largely carried the Liberal Democrats into parliament and government on a promise of tuition fees being abolished. Whichever way you look at it, either Nick Clegg lied to please the students during his campaign, and never intented to abolish the tuition fees, or he sold out along the way, dropped his promises and reversed his political stance 180degrees – in return for ministerial seats. Either way blatant lies, lost hopes and promises deliberately not kept have always been the fuel that lit political anger and inspired demonstrations in the streets. Nick Clegg has basically taken his party from a role of everybodies favorite pet, a faint hope for idealists and the naughty boy in class who dared speak out when others played tactical games, and bought himself seats in government at the expense of his entire political program (the voting reform was sold before he even took office remember). Former Liberal Democrat leaders and prominent figures voted against their own government in parliament, but thats barely a footnote to the students and libdem voters who feel thoroughly betrayed. In that sense, its probably fairly safe to assume Nick Clegg should enjoy his time in the ministeries, as its more than unlikely he will have a seat there after the next election.
Now does any or all of this justify rioting in the streets, destroying property and hurting people? Of course not. Political violence is a bad thing and innocent people having their belongings ruined or being hurt is obviously out of order. However, the anger, frustration and disappointment created by the actions of the british government and the Liberal Democrats in particular are to blame more than anything else, as one person I spoke to said:
“The students dont exactly make you proud to be british. But Clegg. I would have always voted Liberal Democrat. They were the only straight up idealist party. Now theres nobody left to vote for. I am not a student but Nick Clegg betrayed the voters and proved himself a liar like the rest of them. Never again.”
Taken to the streets by the people directly affected, such levels of disappointment can turn nasty. They shouldnt, but equally its hard to believe how it has surprised anyone that they did. And this may only be the beginning, the british are back on the streets, they are angry and ready to show it.Read more
Unless you have been vacationing on mars for the last few weeks, you probably noticed the latest influx of wikileaks. They contain an overwhelming amoung of classified information of various kinds. Thus, they have kindly done the work for many a lazy journalist in need of a quick scandal or frontpage story. But apart from that, political leaders have referred to wikileads as swines and terrorists, whereas those with a thing for public transparency have been celebrating…
Now, we have learned that Saudi Arabia fancies a war with Iran and desperately tries to convince the americans that this might be a feasable venture. We have learned that Angela Merkel is an administrator with no courage or creativity. We have learned that Barack Obama have tried bribing countries such as Slovenia into taking Guantanamo prisoners in return for photo opportunities with celebrities such as himself…and the list goes on forever.
So…is it valuable information or a criminal act to release such info? Well basically, most of it is irrelevant, a bit amusing or non-surprising slander … theres a couple of potentially destabilising pieces of intelligence such as the correspondence regarding the middle east and north corea – but does that constitute the exposure being a dangerous terrorist act. Of course not. First of all, you have to be a bit more naive and narrowminded than George W. to imagine any of this came as a surprise to the involved parties. Iran isnt just likely to be well informed about the attitude towards them among their neighbours (they do afterall have a fairly efficient intelligence service of their own), they have indeed gone out of their way to manifacture it – had they wanted friendly and trusting neighbourly relations, it probably wouldnt have been first on their list to invest in a nuclear program, long range missiles pointing in all directions and having their political leaders giving speech after speech threatening and harassing the very same neighbours, that has now been exposed as “a bit grumpy”. Surprise surprise.
And North Corea. So, they have a military at the border, so they keep plotting malicious activities…or in other words – nothing has changed since the corean war and everyone know about it. It certainly wont have been scandal of the year in the South Corean ministry of defence that they might be wise to keep a lookout on the northeners and their continued efforts to provoke, militarise and cause havoc. Surprise surprise.
Should we continue? Angela Merkel being a bit boring, Sarkozy being “bizarre”, Anders Fogh Rasmussen cutting deals under the table, Barack Obama acting as though he is trying to bullship his way to winning the next round of Big Brother …. yeah, thats all astonishing news in the “terrorist exposure” end of things we would have never figured out ourselves. Wikileaks is public service, or rather – wikileaks is a nice service for journalists who cant be bothered to dig up their own stories and a marvellous reminder to those of us who briefly forgot what common sense would have told us about international politics and relations, had we thought about it for a second…not much more, not much less.Read more
Many political players and commentators agree that American political campaigns are currently undergoing a period of change, due to increased use of the internet (which has become a valuable fundraising tool) and the apparently declining effectiveness of television advertising.
However, as modern technology continues to adapt to changes in society, Internet campaigning will never be able to serve as a complete replacement for traditional political campaigning without reducing the significant barriers to entry. Internet political campaigning leaves out entire portions of each population because it only is accessible to a certain portion of the population, leaving those without this access disconnected.
For example, during Obama’s recent presidential campaign, Internet political campaigning was effective at reaching the younger population, as they remain engaged with social websites and new media. Because of the limits of technology, Obama’s Internet campaign failed to reach older generations who didn’t use this new media, as well as significant amounts of the population who didn’t have access.Read more