Seth Godin, marketing guru, has an interesting take on the anger and the outliers in this election season. If you aren’t familiar with his work, I encourage you to check out his blog and his books.
In any rate, Frank Caprio’s outburst, along with many of the reactionary statements of so-called Tea Party candidates, makes a certain amount of sense through Seth’s analysis. The question is, will America buy it? Godin writes that “When attention is scarce and there are many choices, media costs something other than money. It costs interesting. If you are angry or remarkable or an outlier, you’re interesting, and your idea can spread.” The fact of the matter is that policy change is hard work, and it takes both political talent as well as consensus building skills. Political candidates who are adept at playing the Howard Beale angry man, if they are elected, will have to actually affect change. These outliers will undoubtedly prove unable to build consensus, and we the people will be back at square one.
If you want to get elected in the US, you need media.
When TV was king, the secret to media was money. If you have money, you can reach the masses. The best way to get money is to make powerful interests happy, so they’ll give you money you can use to reach the masses and get re-elected.
Now, though…When attention is scarce and there are many choices, media costs something other than money. It costs interesting. If you are angry or remarkable or an outlier, you’re interesting, and your idea can spread. People who are dull and merely aligned with powerful interests have a harder time earning attention, because money isn’t sufficient.
Thus, as media moves from TV-driven to attention-driven, we’re going to see more outliers, more renegades and more angry people driving agendas and getting elected. I figure this will continue until other voices earn enough permission from the electorate to coordinate getting out the vote, communicating through private channels like email and creating tribes of people to spread the word. (And they need to learn not to waste this permission hassling their supporters for money).
Mass media is dying, and it appears that mass politicians are endangered as well.
For one day, Rhode Island entered the national political spotlight. President Obama was on his way into town to raise money for David Cicilline, the Providence Mayor who is running for Rhode Island’s First Congressional District. Frank Caprio, the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate who once shopped his candidacy to the Republican Party, is angry at the President for not endorsing him over rival Independent Candidate Linc Chafee. Of course, the President decided not to give an endorsement out of respect to Chafee, his friend from the Senate. Chafee endorsed the President in 2008, and a skeptic might call this quid pro quo.
So Caprio, in either a political calculation or a fit of rage, decided to go out on talk shows and tell the President he could take his endorsement and shove it. His strategy will backfire, much like the national Republican strategy will backfire. Caprio could have respectfully stated that the endorsement was not important, that the President must make his own decision, and Caprio would have appeared the mature leader. Instead, Caprio pulled out typical Rhode Island shenanigans by calling the non-endorsement “political.” Of course its political!
The President came into office with the intent of trying to mend the political divide, to nurture compromise and cooperation. The Republicans, from day one, decided to abstain from the problems of the day, and refused to compromise. They offered their blueprint, and claimed that if Democrats did not adopt it entirely, it was not bipartisanship. Lincoln Chafee is one of a dying breed – an honest to God centrist. He is willing to compromise and build coalitions. We need many more men like Chafee and President Obama. Republican Gubernatorial Candidate John Robitaille likes to criticize the “old politics” but his Republican Party is just as adept at playing them. Robitaille tells audiences what they want to hear, and talks in platitudes – Robitaille even hides his views on climate science.
The Republicans are unable to work effectively with Democrats to deal with the serious problems of our day. They have already shown that they are not ready to get down to the serious work of dealing with long term entitlement reform, climate change, and building a 21st Century economy in clean energy. Caprio has not shown the maturity or leadership qualities that our next Governor will need to deal with the serious challenges we face. Michael Bloomberg and President Obama are right about Chafee. He is the best choice for Governor of Rhode Island.
via On Politics