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Posts Tagged ‘Political Campaigns’

Blog #12: Interesting/Boring Class Discussions

This class has certainly been one that has taught me a lot. Heck, not only that but it has also made me aware of influences on my everyday life.

For starters I enjoyed the discussions concerning the way social networking affects our lives in ways of getting political news. A perfect example of this discussion becoming a reality took place last evening when I was checking my Twitter before beginning some homework. While, I was scrolling through the posts I stumbled across one stating that President Obama was to give a speech on an undisclosed topic. From here I quickly turned on the news and watched until reporters were able to confirm that the United States had the body of Osama Bin Laden. From there I continued to watch until President Obama came on to speak. Without the use of this social network, I would have never known what was going on. I related all of this information back to our political information sources discussions; it was very neat.

From here I was able to connect my life to another one of our interesting discussions.  This one was concerning the concept that Presidency had to do with strategy and image. After watching the speech given by Barack Obama concerning Bin Laden’s death I was able to explain the aspects of this interesting in class discussion to my roommates. I told them that this was going to be good for Obama’s approval ratings and re-election, just as 9/11 was a positive thing for former President Bush’s campaign. The connect I was able to make made this class not only more relevant to my everyday life but made me appreciate the discussions that I previously found enjoyable.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the book “The Selling of the President” and our discussions following that. Not only were they extremely interesting but also applicable to politics today. It opened my eyes about what exactly was going on.

While I found almost every aspect of this class to be interesting and worth my while I would not rate the discussions concerning Media Objectivity as one of my favorite. However, it was still some what interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on the matter.

All in all, this class included many topics and discussions that I found to be worth my while, not only as something that was enjoyable but something that I was able to relate to my life as well.

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Blog 11: is being a democratic citizen now the same as it was in the past?

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Being a democratic citizen in 2011 does not mean the same as it did when my parents were in their early 20s, simply due to the advancements of new media and the revitalisation of politics in this digital age. In today’s age, new media is used to activate voters. Individuals have a more direct role in campaigns, which allow for a seemingly closer relationship between voters, candidates, and even political parties.

During the presidential campaign in 2008, the candidates were able to reach voters on a more personal level. For example, Obama utilized Facebook, Twitter, mass text messaging and email to reach many of the younger citizens. With these new campaigning tactics, democratic citizens felt like they were more involved and felt like they actually knew Obama. Instead of established elites dominating political input, like they did in the days of my parents and grandparents, new user-driven technologies (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc…) have now allowed interaction to be seen as promoting the voice of the mass population.

If citizens miss an important speech or debate on TV, they can watch what they missed on their own time on the Internet. My parents and grandparents certainly did not have this luxury when they were in their 20s. When political speeches etc… were aired on TV, there was no way of ever catching that information again. So it feels as if democratic citizens in today’s age can be more involved in political issues because they can view them on their own time whenever they want.

A major difference in political involvement in the times of my parents and in 2011 is the way in which people communicate and promote political issues.  Citizen-campaigning has become much more predominate in modern times. For example, in the past, individuals were called by the telephone and asked to send money or pledge their support to a particular candidate. However, in present times people are offered the means to spread the information themselves (through media like social networking sites) which produces more socially driven political action. Institutions and elites (for the most part) do not necessarily drive political action during modern campaigns, as they once used to do.

Blog 9; Politics on the Internet vs. Politics in Real Life

April 6, 2011 1 comment

Ever since the revolts in Tunisia began journalists have been hailing  social networking as the backbone of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. Personally, I think that is a bunch of malarky. Yes, I do believe that Facebook and Twitter do deserve a lot of credit in helping to spread and continue the revolutions, but without people in the streets demonstrating and fighting political movements are nothing. In my opinion politics and the internet can be a double-edged sword, bringing the good and the bad.

One great thing the internet does is bring people together. As seen through the Al-Jazeera Effect, the internet gives people normally without voices a forum for the world to hear what they have to say. This is great for politics because it allows people to find their political niche and to talk to people with similar views. It also allows for people to form ties that may someday lead to political movements. Social networking sites such as Facebook allow people to donate money to causes and raise awareness about causes people may not know exist. We all saw the power of the internet in the Obama Campaign.  However, being politically active on the internet is not the same thing as being politically active in the real world.

If a Facebook friend messaged me and asked me if I would like to participate in a rally where the police would likely turn the fire hoses on the crowd, I would respectfully decline. However if a close and personal friend asked me to join him or her in a dangerous march for a cause I believed in, I may consider it a bit more. That’s because I feel that the internet is a great place to talk about things and perhaps raise money, but that is the extent of its influence. Without people participating in the streets all of the talk on the internet is empty. It’s easy to sit behind your computer and badmouth a regime or president but it’s another to become active in a movement and that’s where I feel many people draw the line.

As for whether democracy is good for democracy? Once again I feel it has good things and bad things. The internet is good for democracy because it allows people to connect to others with similar views and it allows for people to raise money for candidates and causes. It also allows people to obtain news they may not be able to get through more traditional news media. This can be a bad thing however because people may be drawn to only getting news that fits their worldview, increasing partisanship and thus hurting democracy. In the end I think it is too early to tell how the internet will impact politics and democracy.

Blog 3: Politics is a con game, Mr. Nixon.

February 21, 2011 1 comment

Mr. Nixon is remembered for quite a few things. There was  Watergate, of course. There was losing to Kennedy in 1960. There  were even the disastrous televised debates between himself and  JFK–  the first ever televised presidential debates. Perhaps the most  underrated of Mr. Nixon’s memories is his transformation of the  1968 presidential election campaign.

“Now you put him on television, you’ve got a problem right away,”  Roger Ailes, Nixon’s PR man said.

“He’s a funny-looking guy. He looks like somebody hung him in a  closet overnight and he jumps out in the morning with his suit all  bunched up and starts running around saying, ‘I want to be  President.’ I mean this is how he strikes some people. That’s why  these shows are important. To make them forget all that.” (McGinnis 1988, 103).

Learning from his disastrous mistakes in 1960, the Nixon campaign  used the media to its full extent in 1968. Staged panels and question-  and-answer sessions–much like the one Ailes described above–  emotional commercials that said little but made the audience feel a  lot, a carefully crafted image that was about as genuine as Fox News’s commitment to unbiased journalism and far less genuine than Wolf Blitzer’s devotion to Twitter. Nixon, on purpose or otherwise, revolutionized the very campaign process by turning it into a battle for image, for domination of the media, for the package to look and sound better than the individual parts. Before 1968, campaigns were heavily focused on the issues. After 1968, campaigns were design to, as Ailes put it “make them forget all that”.

The continuities we’ve seen since the Nixon campaign are resounding, of course. That’s the nature of revolutionary technology isn’t it? It’s only revolutionary once and then after that it’s a matter of adapting it so seamlessly that the revolution itself is forgotten. For all of the hours Nixon’s campaign spent crafting his image so that he would appear balanced, patriotic, refreshing and not a dull old man with bags under his eyes, there is double, triple the staff today to take care of what Ailes and company were so hard-put to do in 1968.

Image is absolutely still an important factor in the presidential race. What should an image of John McCain in blue with a red tie and Sarah Palin in bright red, both behind a podium reading COUNTRY FIRST evoke but an identification in America and the subsequent mental link between the McCain campaign and wholehearted patriotism? It’s not that McCain and Palin aren’t naturally patriotic. More that this image, like all images on the campaign trail even today, is a carefully crafted one–supplied and sustained by the funds of the Republican National Party. That’s not to say, of course, that Republicans are the only ones suspect. What are the Democrats but equal rivals not only in votes but in image conjuration as well?

No, politics is just as much of a con game as it was during Nixon’s time. Nixon might have used eerie music and chilling images to mask his political messages:

But even the 2008 political campaign saw advertisements where flashy images spoke more than the actual political stance itself:

What do you notice more here? That McCain has a firm stance in domestic and international policy? Or that Obama is a celebrity because there are camera bulbs flashing everywhere he goes? Carefully calculated images and political advertisements. Political campaigns are still barely more than a popularity contest and it’s just a matter of who has the winning outfit combination.

That isn’t to say that Nixon’s elevation of the presidential candidate to a “celebrity” or “god” status is necessarily the only component in today’s political campaign. That would be unfair to say. Sure, image plays a critical role, but unlike in 1968, there is a lot more exposure to different platforms and pieces of information today. In 1968, you turned on the television and saw the one Nixon campaign or the two televised debates. Maybe you read about it in the newspaper. The distribution of campaign material was very narrowly focused and so was consumption.

Today, social media has changed everything. No longer can Obama or McCain simply air commercials with flashing images and hope that the audience will ignore the fact that there is no substance behind it. For every journalist who ignores the substance for the image, there are two dozen bloggers waiting to analyze just exactly what it is that Obama and McCain said–what was their rhetoric like, was there any substance behind it, did they focus on domestic or foreign policy, did they change stances from previous votes?

The media has always been considered the watchdog of politics. Today, they aren’t alone. Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, the entire internet serves the function of a watchdog. Mr. Nixon’s image revolution is still critical, but the issues have re-emerged as important too. It’s not so easy to bedazzle the entire public through carefully constructed messages and images anymore. After all,

It’s not just that individual voters had access to a wider range of information about candidates and their positions on issues. Unlike in any other Presidential election, the electorate could harness a panoply of social media tools—blogs, social networks, photo and video sharing sites—to broadcast to the world their thoughts about the candidates and their experiences of the electoral process. (Businessweek)

There’s a lot more media and a lot more image construction for the presidential candidate to consider these days. There’s no such thing as a simple commercial or a PR team that can manipulate the entirety of America simply through emotional tactics. That’s not to say that it can’t be done to a certain extent–doesn’t your heart still skip when you hear Yes we can?–but politics has evolved beyond just looking good for the camera. Social media’s pervasiveness has made the necessity of the presidential candidate to be a double threat absolutely critical. Not only does Obama need to look flawless, but he needs to sound it too.

No doubt if Nixon was surrounded by so much technology and media today, so much media and noise would push him to the brink of paranoia and he would try to break into the Democratic Party’s Headquarters to get specific intel. Oh wait! Whoops. xoxo!

Blog 3: Political Campaigns Since 1968

February 21, 2011 1 comment

The presidential campaign of Richard Nixon in 1968 was influential and ground-breaking in many ways.  Even today there are similarities in the ways that presidential and political candidates are presented to our nation that are continually built upon from year to year.  What was so interesting about Nixon’s campaign was the way he used advertising and communication professionals to really capture the “image” he was trying to promote.  One way that this was apparent through the reading of Joe McGinniss’ book, The Selling of the President, was the campaign commercials created by Gene Jones. These commercials were created to send a message to Americans about Nixon’s desired image, not necessarily the specifics or issues of his campaign. One such commercial, the longest of those created, was tweaked and modified until it was suitable to be shown to all voting audiences in the nation.

This type of political advertising ensues today, as candidates package themselves by the image they hope to get across. Most recently, Obama’s campaign slogans of “Hope” and “Change” that were seen all over the political atmosphere in his 2008 presidential campaign come to mind of this type of whole image appeal.

Another way that campaigns today are similar to that of Nixon’s in 1968 is the sheer amount of attention and money invested in campaign advertising.  A “steep” price of $100,000 was spent on acquiring Gene Jones to do the commercial work for Nixon; a price considered worth it for what he would bring to the campaign.  Today, figures continue to grow.  According to a 2008 Parade article, a total of about $3 billion was spent on advertising, with the majority of this money being funneled toward television ads. The article also claims the rise in interest advertising is beginning to play a role in campaigns today, as there was an approximately 600% increase in this channel of political media usage from the 2004 presidential elections.

One way that campaigning has grown and adapted from the 1968 election is the “mudslinging” often seen between candidates in political elections today.  Evidence of this type of campaign strategy began to emerge in the 1968 election but the pitting of one candidate’s image against the other, instead of flat-out attacking, seemed to be more the standard.  This is seen in the Hubert Humphrey’s campaign program, “The Mind Changer”, as described by McGinniss.  In this program, Humphrey and his campaign and advertising staff were able to “match Hubert Humphrey’s heart against Richard Nixon’s skills and the heart seemed by far the more appealing.”  Today, we are more used to candidate’s campaign issues and party ideals being openly questioned through outlets such as television ads. One example from the 2008 presidential election is provided below:

A final difference that is noticeable from the 1968 presidential campaign to today is the ability of political candidates to target select audiences throughout the nation.  This tactic began being used in 1968, as the various Gene Jones commercials were specifically used in different parts of the country, but today there is even more explicit usage of this campaign strategy.  As noted in the previously mentioned Parade article from 2008, “campaign strategists have learned to target their ads down to Congressional districts and precincts where undecided and swing voters live.”  This not only allows for more practical use of campaign adversing spending but creates more power for the candidates able to best utilize this angle in their own campaigns.

Overall, the presidential campaigns of 1968 appear to have set the stage for a more professional and polished use of advertising and PR in one’s political career.  If you want to succeed in the political world, it’s not just issues or your political capabilities that determine your achievements; you have to give Americans “the whole package.”

 

 

Blog 3: Political Campaigns

February 21, 2011 1 comment

Political campaigns have very much changed since Nixon’s 1960 campaign. Just as we read about, Nixon’s 1960 and 1968 campaign were different, with the 1968 campaign trying to “package and sell” him as a person/president. In the 1968 campaign Nixon wanted to make himself more personable, and also refused to do a debate, since the debates ruined him last time. This 1968 campaign was all about selling Nixon as a person, and put him in controlled situations only. The website The Living Room Candidate provides a very good example of  how presidential campaigns have changed over the years. It is an archive of campaign commercials, debates, advertisements, and election results. In this website it is obvious, starting with Lyndon B. Johnson’s re-election campaign of 1964, that this is when candidates started “attacking” each other, rather than just focus on themselves and what they have to offer. This has really been evident in the past couple of campaigns. It seems as if candidates only talk about their opponent in their advertisement. Candidates also seem to strive to highlight anything wrong that their opponent did in the past.

Lyndon B. Johnson ran a very controversial ad during his 1964 campaign called the “Daisy Girl” ad. In this ad it shows a little girl peacefully picking at a flower. All of a sudden, she is seemingly blown up by a nuclear explosion. Johnson’s message in this ad is that if Goldwater was elected, this is something that could happen, and wanted to instate a fear in America that Goldwater would start a nuclear war if elected president. This ad only ran once because it was so controversial but is a good example of the beginning of the new campaign strategy of candidates attacking each others faults.

Political campaigns have stayed the same in that each party is constantly working to elect their candidate.There is still the big spectacle of party conventions. They have also stayed the same in that some advertisements will only focus on the candidate and what their accomplishments are, however this is very rare. I think they have also stayed the same in that the candidate always has his core campaign advisers helping him along the way. There are also debates nowadays, except for the exception of Johnson and Nixon declining debates during each of their respective campaigns.

BLOG 3: Political Campaigns since Nixon

February 17, 2011 1 comment

How have political campaigns changed since the Nixon campaign of 1968? How have they stayed the same?

The three things that most immediately stick out to me after reading McGinnis’s “Selling of the President” are: television, image, and press.

Concerning image, the 1968 election marked the first time that candidates were packaged and presented to the American people as a product.  The packaging of Nixon in this campaign hardly even represented his true self.  The actual issues took a back seat to using all means to present Nixon to be exactly what the American people thought they wanted-not someone who necessarily shared their beliefs, not someone who was qualified for the job, but merely someone projected a feeling of trust, likability, and good feelings about the country.

The 1968 campaign also set a precedent for use of television for every subsequent presidential election to date.  Although television had also played a key role in the 1960 election, Nixon’s campaign seemed revolutionary for two main reasons: (1) their use of TV as a controlled medium and (2) their reliance on TV as a means to avoid the press.  As far as being a controlled medium, the Nixon campaign staff sought to control every detail of production and direction.  Additionally, since the Nixon campaign wanted to avoid the press television became their sole means for communication with the public.

This leads into the last outstanding point of the Nixon campaign: their approach to dealing with the press — not to deal with the press.  Nixon’s campaign seemed to be able to avoid interaction with the press, and still survive, and even win by solely depending on television (and radio).

Considering just these three issues in terms of contemporary campaigning some similarities can be drawn but there are also dramatic differences. The most obvious difference is that no candidate running an election for office, especially such a high office as president, could ever get away with ignoring the press.  Not only would a candidate be blasted for avoiding the press, but I do not think he would be physically able to do so.  Additionally, no candidate would ever even think of ignoring the press because the press provides vital coverage for the candidates when they want the attention of the nation.  With the ludicrous cost of political campaigns, press coverage is, at the very least, free publicity.

Related to this issue, I do not think any contemporary presidential candidate would be able to get away with shirking the issues as much as Nixon did.  Nixon’s campaign seemed totally based on a contrived image of the candidate, presented to just the right audience with little to no attention paid to the issues.  Nixon addressed issues by speaking in general, nice sounding terms and focused instead on presenting himself to the audience correctly.  Although contemporary candidates surely must  maintain a certain image in order to be elected, I like to think that campaigns now put a stronger focus on policy.  Candidates may have go-to answers for hot topic issues, but surely it would not be well received for a candidate to glaze over the issue with shallow, rosy responses. To emphasize the vagueness of Nixon’s policies and his reliance on imagery and good feelings to persuade the voter, I have included a link to one of his campaign ads. This ad is a perfect example of presenting pleasing imagery on top of feel-good rhetoric in order to present a picture of American under Nixon that voters would “buy”.

On the other hand, the packaging of candidates and the importance of their image continues to be just as influential as it was in the Nixon campaign.  Despite campaigns’ more serious approach to addressing issues, image is just as important.  Perhaps the most pertinent example of the influence of image is Obama’s campaign.  Just as Nixon was packaged to be an experienced and personable man who would restore dignity to American, Obama was packaged as hope and change.  Not only was Obama packaged as hope and change, he was elected for hope and change. The book made it clear that when people voted for Nixon they were voting for his image.  Similarly, a mass amount of people who voted for Obama were not voting for his policies, they were voting for hope and change.

A final comparison to draw between Nixon’s campaign and contemporary campaigns their reliance on television.  Obviously, TV continues to be an absolutely vital medium for candidates to use, and no one could be elected without heavy use of television. However, in today’s world of advanced technology so many other forms of media exist that can be used to reach different audience and obtain different advantages.  Websites, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and twitter are only a few.  Within the past few years each of these tools has become available for campaign use and most likely the full use of each of these mediums has yet to be discovered.  Again, Obama presents an excellent example as being the first candidate to use social media as a critical and effective part of his campaign.

In conclusion, while candidates still heavily rely on image and the use of television to make their campaign successful, no candidate could ignore the press as Nixon did.  Just as Nixon and his campaign staff revolutionized the way advertising and television would be used to sell the president as a package, Obama and future candidates will revolutionize the use of social media as a way to create a more personal connection with their audience and mobilize supporters.