15 August 2016

Frameworks, Pt. 5

To recap Part 3, Donald Trump's tactical approach to consolidating and energizing his base is to manufacture outrage. In Part 4, we discussed the contrasting strategic approach of the Hillary Clinton campaign. How, then, is Hillary Clinton attempting to carry out her 'all things to all people' strategy?

Where Trump needs to build toward an electoral majority from a solid base on the extreme right wing, Clinton needs to stake out a broad segment of the general electorate from a center-left position. To do this, her campaign is seeking to expand her coalition by moving both leftward toward the Sanders base of the Democratic party and allied independents and rightward toward the middle in order to capture a broad majority.

As we've seen, Trump's is a bit of a blunderbuss maneuver—earned media, tweets, gigantic rallies (all empowered by his ratings manipulating outrageous "bullshit"). Clinton's tactical approach is the tried-and-true use of data-driven messaging, or micro-targeting.

If the Clinton campaign wants to appeal to a certain demographic that relies heavily on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, &c.) they employ celebrities and commenters the users of these platforms like/follow/&c. To appeal to serious policy types, she and her influential surrogates publish policy papers and statements in important journals and magazines and newspaper editorial pages. To target informed members of the boomer generation who get most of their information from cable television, her campaign distributes talking points and deploys winsome, attractive talkers to significant programs and talk shows. To appeal to traditional Democrats, the campaign brings out party bigwigs to rallies, fund-raisers, television and radio programs to extol her policies and virtues. She holds private fund-raisers for wealthy donors. She gives talks to a wide range of interest groups. She holds campaign rallies in key precincts and swing districts (something the Trump campaign has yet to master!). Moreover, the campaign and its allies are using traditional, professionally-created ads to reach specific low-information populations through the television and radio programming they consume. And, lastly, the campaign is deploying many professionals and many more volunteers to battleground areas they believe they can win in order to get out the vote—the so-called ground game.

This is the traditional data-driven path to electoral victory we are used to seeing in U.S. elections. It is expensive and involves an enormous amount of energy and resources. It also requires precise data and precision targeting of resources. The Clinton campaign has drawn on and updated Obama's wildly and unexpectedly successful 2008 campaign playbook. It is a very professional operation which seems to have learned key lessons from it previous mistakes and failures.

The essential message of the campaign, as we've indicated, is that Hillary Clinton has the knowledge, experience, and competence required for the job of the presidency. Again, in contrast to Trump's wildly outlandish and, frankly, amateurish claims, her message—agree or disagree—is precise, consistent, and focused.

She has been the wife of a President, a U.S. Senator, and the Secretary of State—all of which count as relevant experiences. It is certainly appropriate to take exception to any of her specific policy proposals or to debate the merits of her specific prior actions or performance in government or out (and that's not what this series of posts is about). Only one of those prior roles, however, specifically and directly relates to her 'all things to all people' strategic claim: her experience as Senator. And there are really only two data points worth considering in this regard.

Clinton was first elected Senator from the State of New York in 2000 by a 55-43% vote. She served for 6 years and ran for re-election in 2006, winning by a 67-31% electoral landslide. That's an enormous 12% increase in popularity after serving for 6 years, with a population sample size of 19 million and during which time New York had a Republican Governor, George Pataki (1995-2005).

Can she be all things to all people? No. But she proved to the people of New York that she could increase her popularity and outreach to a very broad spectrum of a diverse electorate.

The Clinton organization knows who the targets of her campaign should be, and they are aggressively messaging them. They seem to be willing to write off the 10% or so of the Bernie Sanders supporters who will never vote for her in order to appeal to the broad moderate middle of the electorate. They know, too, they can never win over the staunch, near-extremist base of support for Donald Trump. But between those two constituencies there is a lot of room to maneuver, and that's where they've chosen to set their sites and target their message.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I guess we can agree that the weather on the east coast has been pretty bad.

Jim H. said...

Believe me, thunder, I hear you. What I'm trying to do here is look at the 'best case' campaigns these two are running. It's an analysis, not a critique, of their best arguments. I'm just trying to understand "HOW" they are trying to manipulate the voters—their strategy, message, and tactics. And the underlying ethical philosophies. My grad work was in philosophy, and political philosophy is meaningful to me; that's why I had that Pt. 1 piece about consequentialism and rule-following. I honestly believe it helps me see clearly what they're each trying to do and how they're each trying to do it. In all the hubbub of election year, nobody I know looks at this stuff; they're always focusing on the latest outrage or gaffe or lie or oppo propaganda or polling. I listen to that stuff, too, and know all the arguments—from both sides.

I do appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. It's very meaningful to me. I'm not so sure we disagree, I just haven't made my argument yet.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

As a Bernie supporter, this is what I saw in the primary: The same strategy HRC tried against Obama.

'I am going to be the 1st lady President, therefore my opponents are anti-women.'

It didn't work in 2008, because Obama was able to counter with his own Dem identity politics argument: "I'm running to be the 1st black President, therefore my opponents are racist."

Wall St. backed Obama, and unsurprisingly, so did our corporate media.

No way that was happening this year with an actual lefty in the race, and thus the media happily carried the "Bernie Bros" story for Hillary.

If there's anything new this year for HRC, it's the constant Red Scare. No surprise to see Bush-era neocons flocking to her banner.

And of course our media would rather talk about the scary commies rather than the DNC leaks themselves, which reveal their own complicity.

Jim H. said...

I agree with the "1st lady President" part completely. And what I'm doing is asking the next question: to what audience is she making that argument? [Not you or me, for example] Then I ask, well what other arguments is she making and to what other audiences or potential constituencies? As you've pointed out, she's appealing to certain Establishment neocons—a move which tends to alienate people like you and me. Yet, in a speech today, she made some very populist policy proposals. Is it fair to argue she's speaking out of two sides (or more) of her mouth? Absolutely, and if she wins, folks like us will have to clamor to hold her accountable for those promises.

After I examine the breadth of constituencies her various arguments are aimed at, I try to understand what they tell us about her "overall" strategy—which is, as I argue, an "all things to all people" (within certain constraints—no hardline "BernieBros" or "Trumpistas", for example) approach.

I do have trouble characterizing "Wall Street" and "the media" as single entities. That's probably where we differ. I mean, Larry Kudlow, for instance, is both Wall Street & Media, and he's one of the most vocal pro-Trump/anti-Hillary guys. And there are plenty of other examples. Institutions have institutional constraints, and I pointed that out in one of my Parts. As corporate entities in a capitalist system, they have one and only one ironclad interest: to make a profit for their owners/shareholders. Everything else is relative. Candidates and parties and constituencies compete to get their message heard on the media. Trump, e.g., has gotten more free or "earned" media coverage than all other candidates combined. You can't say the media is 'in the bag' for Hillary. Moreover, different people within those institutions act individually.

Anyway, I really appreciate your perspective and believe we're not that far apart ultimately—I just come at it from a different (philosophical) angle.

And yes the weather on the East Coast really sucks this summer!!