Thursday, April 3, 2014

Attacks and wedges

By Bill Kraus

This is an election year. This means that we will all get to vote for a candidate for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state treasurer.

Those of us in one of 68 Assembly districts in which competition is more than a fantasy will get to cast a meaningful vote for that office. The other 31 are walkovers for one party or the other due to clustering which is natural and redistricting which is not.

Those of us in 14 of the state Senate districts up for election this year may have a choice. The other three districts are what might be called pre-loaded for one party or the other.

In fairness, the 34 legislative seats which have a history of incumbents winning with more than 70 percent and up to 99 percent of the vote might be contested in primaries. But the winner of the general election is a foregone conclusion.

By the way. None of the eight congressional incumbents are really at risk. If anyone wonders how that could be, send me a letter.

The campaign wisdom which is merchandised by the professional campaigners who dominate the election campaign business will advise all the candidates who need advice to adhere to the conventional wisdom of 2014 politics.

The conventional wisdom comes in two parts: wedging and attacking.

Wedging is collecting enough interest groups that are most likely to favor a candidate to add up to 51 percent of the projected vote total and appealing to those interest groups’ interests.

Attacking is the recommended way to frame appeals. Speeches, brochures, advertisements generally, and broadcast and internet advertisements specifically, are most effective if they are attacks on what the opposing candidate has done or will do.

Oh, yes, the money. The chances of winning elections increase as the amount of money spent to identify and pander to the wedges and to demonize everyone else increases.

Obviously conventional campaigns reward the professionals who run them and the media outlets that are used to deliver the the attacks.

Unfortunately they also seem to work.

Nobody asks whether the reason they work is that since nobody runs unconventional campaigns so there is therefore no way to determine if something different might work as well.


I am looking for candidates with ideas about complicated problems and opportunities instead of ideologies and fast slogans.

I want to hear messages that articulate what a candidate proposes to do right instead of what a candidate thinks his or her opponent is doing wrong.

Fools errands.

As I said in the beginning: This is an election year.

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