Haven’t had much time for blogging lately due to a new job but have given it a lot of thought with so much material to read and absorb. Will hopefully find more time over coming weeks for posts on the recent election in New Zealand, US mid-terms, by elections in NSW as well as current contests in Victoria and the ongoing saga of a federal budget whose passage seems to be the political equivalent of the 80s classic ‘Never-ending Story”.
Today I feel compelled to put some thoughts on paper (or keyboard?) following two recent culturally significant events that had some personal meaning: Remembrance Day and the funeral of Gough Whitlam.
I’ve previously mentioned the importance of cultural context in campaigning techniques. Last night I noticed our PM was copping a bit of flak on twitter (nothing unusual there) regarding his recent threat to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin as well as his recent commitment to send Australian troops back into the Iraq. Yes, that same quagmire created by Bush/Blair/Howard when they invaded and destroyed a largely functioning nation in 2003. I recalled Mr Abbott was also recently found guilty by the Insiders panel of conflating crimes in Western Sydney and the threat of Terrorism from “ISIS’, or “Daesh” as they are called by their local enemies. So following the twitter ruckus I was keen to see what recent statements he may or may not have made that were embarrassing to him or the nation. Disappointingly there didn’t seem to be any recent zingers or clangers. In fact the video statement he released for Remembrance Day was well-written and relatively-speaking, well-delivered.
There’s a good write up including some of the more memorable tweets here.
It’s also a shame the Remembrance Day statement seemed to be overshadowed by his recent decision to cut wage increases for the Australian armed forces. Tasmanian PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie even botched together a meme of sorts (presumably using powerpoint?). Despite the poor layout, it conveyed an effective message about the PM’s attitude to the wages and conditions of the service men and women that were often tasked to join him in Putin-like photo opportunities.
There were also no shortage of anti-Abbott memes quick to take the opportunities presented by numerous public photos of the often media-shy PM. Just google (images) Abbott+Putin+meme for big laughs, especially if you’re a Trekky.
“By 1915 we had no need to re-affirm our European heritage at the price of being dragged to a European holocaust. We had escaped that mire, both sociologically and geographically. But out of loyalty to imperial Britain, we returned to Europe’s killing fields to decide the status of Germany, a question which should earlier have been settled by foresight and statecraft.’ and
“One thing is certain: young Australians, like the young Europeans I mentioned earlier, can no longer be dragooned en masse into military enterprises of the former imperial variety on the whim of so-called statesmen. They are fortunately too wise to the world to be cannon fodder of the kind their young forebears became: young innocents who had little or no choice. Commemorating these events should make us even more wary of grand ambitions and grand alliances of the kind that fractured Europe and darkened the twentieth century. In the long shadow of these upheavals, we gather to ponder their meaning and to commemorate the values that shone in their wake: courage under pressure, ingenuity in adversity, bonds of mateship and above all, loyalty to Australia.”
Keating’s 2013 speech was similar to his 1993 speech as PM, the audio of which is available here.
Another favourite worth dissecting is Barack Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 American Democratic National Convention when he retold, eloquently, the story of his personal journey (which is described in much greater detail in his best-selling books).
Ron Faucheux is the author or editor of several popular American books on political campaigning including Running for Office: The Strategies, Techniques and Messages Modern Political Candidates Need to Win Elections and Winning Elections: Political Campaign Management, Strategy & Tactics. He also ran the popular Campaigns and Elections magazine for several years. He’s a former candidate, elected representative, Chief of Staff and experienced campaign manager and trainer. Dr. Faucheux teaches courses in Campaign Management, Running for Office, and the History of Presidential Elections at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, and at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute.
He’s a regular writer and contributor to media discussion about campaigning and campaign management. One website that he contributes to (and is worth subscribing to ) is Winning Campaigns.
An example of his sound, experienced advice includes: “In modern campaigns, everybody wants to run smart, sophisticated, creative, cutting edge campaigns that utilize the latest techniques and tools. But in trying to do so, don’t forget the basics: Develop a clear, simple strategy and stick to it. Develop a strong message and use it. Go directly to the people and ask everyone for their help. Let the voters get to know you and stand for something that matters. Bring new people into the political process. The basics separate winners from losers, mediocre campaigns from great campaigns.”
Below is an summary from a great article he wrote for Winning Campaigns which lists some great advice for new and inexperienced candidates. Actually come to think of it, this list is a great refresher for old and tired candidates and campaign directors as well! 🙂
1. Don’t let the tough days get you down.
2. Always keep your cool.
3. The goal of being a candidate is winning the election.
4. No matter how hard you try, you won’t get every vote that’s cast and you won’t get everybody to like you.
5. If you want a political career, never let defeat stop you.
6. Ask every voter for help.
7. When someone tells you they’re voting for your opponent, don’t get angry.
You can follow Winning Campaigns on Facebook as well.
The picture below has nothing to do with Winning Campaigns or Ron Faucheux. It’s just one of the funny images from the recently released movie ‘The Campaign’ which is worth watching if you’re an old cynic like me 🙂
It’s no secret that I enjoy Peter Brent’s frequent musings on modern Australian politics. He has an entertaining acerbic wit and dry sense of humour that he is renown for amongst fans of Aussie politics. He sometimes strays with his obsession about certain politicians that he seems to personally dislike but by and large his analysis of election results and polling is very good.
The full article can be found here on the Inside Story website (worth subscribing to) and is definitely worth a read, particularly if you’re interested in recent Labor history and the false image/myth created around John Howard’s electoral success (which Peter has repeatedly and correctly pointed out was due in part to favourable economic times and enormous middle-class welfare and high-spending high-taxing policies).
“A Labor think tank has given a timely warning about the seductive appeal of triumphs past, says Peter Brent … Last month in London, Michael Cooney, executive director of the Labor Party’s main think tank, the Chifley Research Centre, called for an end to what he termed “nostalgia for the new.” In a speech called “In the Shadow of Giants: the Paradox of Modernisation in the Second Generation,” he took particular aim at the obsession within his party with the Hawke and Keating governments of 1983–96, and the implication that this politically successful period can serve as a blueprint for Labor today. Cooney characterised nostalgia for that period – the belief that if only the spirit of those times could be recaptured, all would be well – as a one-dimensional view of the recent past. Beginning and ending with “microeconomic reform,” this account was constructed by the party’s enemies, he argued, with the chief aim of flaying modern Labor. Yet it’s also something many in the party have internalized.”
I really liked this point from Peter, which is an important lesson for political strategists and local campaign directors: “Trying to repeat the past is a recipe for dysfunction. Apart from anything else, any account of what happened is incomplete, selective or just plain wrong. History is often like that: the stories that develop through the years contain truths, yes, but also omissions, exaggerations and falsehoods. Random events sometimes alter the course of those tales, and as they are retold they are remoulded by ideological battles.”
Peter ends this episode with a positive note about Labor (as positive as his overt cynicism allows I suspect 🙂 … “the party will undoubtedly return to office one day. How it behaves when it once more controls the levers will indicate whether the current ailment is temporary or something more enduring.”
My opinion on this topic is obviously optimistic. Having just spent 5 years working in the ACT Labor office I have seen closely the positive outcomes from a hard-working team of representatives and supportive party members. Whenever Labor embraces its values and follows through with team-work it always improves outcomes in government and in the community. There are no silver bullets in politics and occasionally you are under heavy enemy fire, but the progressive side of politics must be united and focused on a better future to succeed. There are lots of good examples of the successes of good Labor policy and government in recent Australian history as well as in current governments in SA and the ACT. I’m sure federal Labor’s electoral success will return with a vengeance and I am confident that Bill Shorten will continue to score goals strengthening the Party for its next electoral test.
For perspective on the difference between Democratic and Republican midterm strategy, you really have to read Derek Willis’s NYT Upshot post “Democrats Are Spending More on the Ground in Key Senate Races.” The centerpiece in his post, quite a jaw-dropper really, is a chart, “A Democratic Edge in Key Senate Races,” which graphically depicts how much of the midterm outcome is riding on Dem’s GOTV spending.
In Alaska, for example, Dems are spending $1.9 million for “local staffers; get-out-the-vote efforts and other field operations.” to re-elect Mark Begich, vs. less than $225K for the Repubican candidate. In Colorado the difference is even greater, with Dems spending $4.4 million on staff and voter contact operations, compared the the Republicans’ spending a paltry $556K for their candidate. In North Carolina Democrats are spending $3.2 million on ground game efforts to re-elect Sen. Kay Hagan, compared to less than $836K for her GOP opponent. In Iowa it’s $1.3 mill for Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley against $105K for his adversary.
Willis adds that outside groups, such as super PACs, environmental and reproductive rights groups “working on behalf of Democratic candidates have extended the advantage.” Republicans, lacking the ground troops, have for the most part opted for investments in more traditional methods, such as media and postal ads.
Much depends on how good Democratic high-tech voter targeting efforts like the Bannock Street Project really are, vs. the GOP’s ad saturation strategy. But Dems are not withdrawing from the ad wars in any sense, explains Willis:
In Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, the number of network television spots is split roughly evenly between the two sides, according to data compiled by Echelon Insights, a Republican digital consulting firm…Spending on field operations is still a fraction of the amount that goes to television and other forms of advertising, and campaigns are reluctant to take money away from trying to reach mass audiences, even if it’s unclear in many cases how many persuadable voters broadcast advertisements reach.
Democrats clearly recognize that they have to remain competitive in fronting strong television ads, matching the Republican investment. But they also believe they can target swing voters better than can the Republicans, and they can put more trained canvassers on their front porches– and with a better message.
It’s a big gamble. But credit Democrats with the realization that getting different midterm results requires a different GOTV strategy. So far, dozens of better-than-expected snapshot polls suggest they may be right.
I was looking at some recent campaign gaffes in elections around the world and it reminded me of a recent article on Australian examples by Peter Chen from Sydney University.
I first met Peter Chen briefly in 2008 at a post-2007-federal-election workshop at ANU where he entertained a room of political science academics and practitioners with YouTube clips from the 2007 election campaign. Last year he wrote an interesting piece for The Drum about campaign gaffes http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-19/chen-campaign-gaffes/4895246
If you don’t have time to read the 2012 thesis you might prefer this shorter article from 2012 “Social Media, Youth Participation and Australian Elections” http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/research/caber/files/1b.pdf … in a nutshell: ” Social media used for political purposes is likely though, in the first instance, to attract those with pre-existing strong political interests. However, the generalisation of social media use, and its focus on sociality and community building, has the potential to change the way trusted political information is distributed and engagement occurs.”
Dr Chen’s thesis reveals he “is a lecturer in media and politics at the University of Sydney. He holds a PhD from The Australian National University. His research focuses on the relationship between media and political processes, with a particular interest in new forms of communication. He also teaches and researches in the areas of public policy, Australian politics and social movements. Peter is the author of numerous articles and chapters on the role of digital media in Australian political life, and the author of Electronic Engagement: A Guide for Public Managers (ANU E Press, 2007) and the co-author of Electronic Democracy? The Impact of New Communications Technologies on Australian Democracy (Democratic Audit of Australia, 2006). He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Information Technology & Politics and the International Journal of Electronic Governance.
I can’t seem to find him on Twitter though, which is a bit disappointing.
In the Drum article Dr Chen refers primarily to Mr Abbott’s “suppository of all wisdom” gaffe and concludes “there is some truth in the repression view of gaffes. Where there are cognitive associations between concepts, verbal misstatements may reflect them in unguarded moments. The important question is to be able to delineate between simple error and significant and telling Freudian slip. In the latter case this would be most observable where these errors are repeated over time, eliminating the “momentary distraction” and “linguistic similarity” explanations. Tony Abbott may not have a deeply suppressed anal fixation, but his tendency towards repeated gender stereotypes (ironing and women, sex appeal as an important characteristic for women in public life, talking about Indigenous women simply as passive victims) does provide us with a sense that, in this policy area, there’s something to the slip of the tongue.”
I first met Jennifer Lees-Marshment over ten years ago when she was based in the UK but was working on Political Marketing and Political Science projects as a visiting fellow at ANU and presented some of her findings at seminars in the Australian Federal Parliament. We joked after one of her seminars about the defensive critiques she was receiving from some of the “practitioners” in the room. I won’t name names but needless to say our shared frustration with the overt cynicism many practitioners have for political scientists helped break the ice.
Jennifer is an international leader in political marketing which explores how politicians and government use tools like branding and market research to win and retain power. Last year she pioneered the development of a new Stage Three course at Auckland “The Practice of Politics” (the only of its kind in New Zealand), which teaches students about the diversity of career options in politics and the challenges they may face. Jennifer has a BA (Hons) in History and American Studies from Keele University in the UK, an MA (with Distinction) in Politics from Manchester and a PhD in Politics from Keele. She was a senior lecturer at Keele and Aberdeen universities before joining Auckland’s staff as a senior lecturer in 2005. She became an associate professor in 2012. Associate Professor of Political Studies Jennifer Lees-Marshment is academic adviser to New Zealand’s Vote Compass – the online election tool, hosted by TVNZ, which enables voters to find out how their views on a range of issues compare to the positions of parties in the build up to New Zealand’s 20 September General Election.
Her research and writing broadened the scope of political marketing from campaigning to behaviour and from elections to governing and has been widely cited and influential with review comments including ‘an enormous contribution’; ‘a must-have-on-your-shelf volume’; ‘authoritative and accessible’; ‘sophisticated, learned research’; ‘an important and innovative book’; ‘sagacious views’; ‘a wealth of insights’; ‘a hugely informative study on an important field’; ‘ground breaking’; ‘a timely and extremely important book’; ‘a valuable addition.’; ‘pioneering collection’; ‘a significant contribution.’ She has authored/edited 13 books and reviews have noted the practical advice within them: ‘crucial to our understanding of how this world works — not just in theory, but in practice’; ‘all those who claim to understand modern political strategy, all those pundits and government-relations experts we see on TV, should keep this volume at hand as an essential reference’; ‘this book will be a bible for political operatives to be kept close at hand for frequent reference.’ She has also interviewed over 200 political elites and involved practitioners in events and publications throughout her career. Her newest book is The Ministry of Public Input to be published in January 2015.
So tell me about yourself. Who are you in a nutshell? I am a gardener academic – I like to break new ground and nurture new ideas and people to grow into the tallest of trees people came climb and get a different view from. I produce ground breaking research that aims to change the way people think – early in my career I argued that political marketing wasn’t just about selling or campaigning; I am now arguing for new views on political leaders and public input in government. I also want to take university out of the ivory tower and connect it with the real world through research led but practice oriented teaching. As a nurturing leader, I look for ways to support new ideas, new scholars, new studnets all the time, and work across the usual hierarchies of power, discipline and geographical boundaries. Of course, doing all of this puts me up against some pretty big brick walls – being a leader, who seek leadership as about supporting others not just promulgating your own ideas and power, and thinks academics are there to serve society not just create knowledge for knowledge sake is “disruptive thinking” for most institutions, and goes against the grain of traditional culture. But when I look back on my career I have achieved so much in terms of changing views of political marketing, connecting and supporting people I remain proud of this wonderful – if challenging – path I choose to take.
What compels you to write and research politics? A fundamental passion to write about what is really going on in politics, uncover things people do not normally see, communicate those new findings, generate debate about them, and use them to inform better practice through teaching and professional training. For example I have helped to show that political marketing is happening throughout the world not just in campaign time and involves a whole range of marketing tools and concepts. And more recently with my work The Ministry of Public Input I found that politicians are integrating a range of public input into their decision making and being reflective and deliberative. We don’t see that from the outside so I think it’s important academics find it out and let everyone know. Whilst I think academia needs to connect with the outside world, I still believe in the value of traditional critical objective research, but I just then go one step further in trying to take that research to the real world. It’s not so much changing what we do as changing what we do with it.
What do you love about politics? Ultimately it’s about how to make life better for everyone. My real underlying passion is how can we get politicians to be more responsive to the public and provide them with – or work with them to create – a better life. It appeals to my sense of what democracy is all about. And I love trying to understand it, seeing my theories proven right – and learning all over again when they might be found to be wrong or need updating!
Is there anything you don’t like about modern politics? The cynicism towards politicians. As employers of politicians we do not manage them well. All we do is see their bad points; we fail to see how hard they work, how reasonable most of them really are; and how they are just doing their best to create a better society. I’ve presented my research on political leaders recently and been really taken by the huge negativity that comes towards you when you suggest – on the basis of research – that politicians might actually act and think in a way that is positive. People don’t want to hear it; they much prefer to think badly of politicians. That isn’t good for democracy.
Compulsory or voluntary voting? Voluntary
Who are your favourite writers? I like any story about someone triumphing over obstacles. No particular favourite authors.
What are your favourite websites and news sources? The NZ Herald as it has a free app that is easy to use. For the NZ election I am recording the one news by TVNZ so I keep up to date with it all but normally I wouldn’t as it’s kid dinner bath bedtime.
What’s the first thing you do each morning? Feel tired. I don’t get enough sleep/rest.
What’s your favourite political movie/book/documentary/TV series? Commander in Chief was good. I liked Scandal and House of Cards but they get a bit far fetched/too much about stuff that isn’t politics after a while.
What are you currently reading or working on? Nothing! Well, not a publication anyway – I am doing Vote Compass for the 2014 New Zealand election; and distributing a report from The Ministry of Public Input to government staff to get the idea of creating an all of government unit to collect, analyse and communicate public input going round government. And trying to get a book series in political marketing underway. So then again, quite a lot…but having completed 3 books in the last two years and having no new book to write as yet it feels like a lot less work.
Jennifer recently gave an interview to a University publication about her life, her work and interests. below is a photo of the published interview, with a transcript further below.
What did you love doing when you were a child? I read a lot of books. My favourite author was Enid Blighton. I also wrote plays and stories when I finished the set work in class. I was born in Birmingham in the Midlands and then moved to Staffordshire when I was about 10.
Tell us about your first job? The first job I had was picking strawberries. From the 30 pounds I earned, I brought a special disc for my typewriter so I could type italics.
Did you have a favourite teacher? At Sir Graham Balfour High school in Staffordshire, my history teacher Mr Stephen Day generated my love of political history. He brought it alive by comparing 18/19th century events to those happening in the 20th. At University my PhD supervisor, Dr Matthew Wyman was very supportive of my new ideas on political marketing and we’ve kept in touch, authoring a chapter on teaching professional politics. I got the idea for doing a Practice of Politics course from the one he created in the UK.
How and when did you decide what your career would be? My mother did a degree in psychology at Aston University in Birmingham when I was five and I vividly remember going into university lectures with her in school holidays – daycare was not so available then. I distinctly remember this professor putting up on an overhead projector a simple picture of a house with windows and doors and I thought: “I could draw that. I could be a professor.” He was probably talking about environmental psychology and was doing a very complex analysis but to my child’s eye it seemed easy! I also grew up in the time of Margaret Thatcher. It was absolutely brilliant having a woman prime minister; you had the sense that you could do anything.
I didn’t plan on doing politics at university though – I’d wanted to be a barrister but didn’t get the grades at age 18 to do law, so instead I did a foundation year which turned out to be the best thing as I realised I really wanted to do politics and history. I found political marketing during my masters at Manchester when discussing how Tony Blair was changing the British Labour Party and life-long Labour voters like my Dad were very unhappy. My lecturer said “what about looking at political marketing”? And off I went…
What is the purpose of your present position Research wise I explore what goes on behind the scenes by looking at political marketing and public input into government. I then teach this to my students so they know what’s going on and so they are prepared for the workforce. I see my job as an academic as to conduct high-quality research but to make it useful to the community through applied politics teaching and reporting recommendations for best practice.
What do you love most about your job Challenging conventional wisdom through research into real world practice. One of the key contributions I made early in my career was to argue that political marketing wasn’t just advertising. For my latest research on political leadership I interviewed 50 government ministers and found that they recognise they have limited power and knowledge and need input from the public to create workable policies. I also love the fact I get to travel and meet loads of people around the world. Vote Compass came out of a book I co-edited with Canadian colleagues on Political Marketing In Canada. I was once flown to Malaysia and met the Prime Minister there; and I‘ve done interviews in the White House, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
Do you believe what you do changes people’s lives I know I’ve made a big difference in my field. When I started researching political marketing it was ridiculed and seen as just spin-doctoring and adverts. Now it’s viewed as much more ubiquitous: it affects government decision-making and policy and is discussed in the media and in movies. I’ve made that happen not just through my own books (I’ve published 12!) but through supporting and connecting other scholars and linking academia with practice.
What do you do when you’re not working Gardening and my two young children. It’s the same kind of thing as my career really: nurturing potential and seeing it grow.
I’ve already written a short post about Dee Madigan’s recently published book on politics and communications. Now I’ve also come across a great video of her at a recent United Voice Conference.
In this short video she shares some brilliant communications advice that is important in all progressive contests, not just the fight to protect unions and the workers they represent.
If you are sick of anti-Union media bias, Dee has a simple answer for you. Here’s how you can fight it: Tell everyone you are a union member and tell them why it’s important.
Watch the video. Understand that “Branding” is just a fancy marketing term for “how people perceive you” and Tories will do everything they can to frame progressive organisations negatively, which they do every day through the mainstream media, so called “think-tanks” and the propaganda that passes as government information when Tories are in charge.