Don has a thought-provoking post on the use of Facebook in mass-interpersonal persuasion.  In a post-lection analysis at CLU, José brought up the idea of how Obama created what is tantamount to a social movement using web 2.0 tools.  I was reading a US News article on the use of YouTube in the 2008 campaign and couldn’t help but recall the ParkRidge47 spectacle from early 2007 and the role of viral multimedia in politics and mass-interpersonal interaction.  In this video, the creator, Phil de Vellis, talks about how politicians should inspire content and how his Vote Different mashup went viral despite his posting anonymity.

The rise of political video watching is evident from Pew Research Center figures, going from 24% in December of 2007 to 39% in late October.  What I find interesting is how video is being used by both the public and the candidates.  The USNews article talks about how Obama’s campaign posted on YouTube a rebuttal to clips of Rev. Wright’s inflammatory remarks going viral, which were being used against Barack.  Obama Girl, the Yes We Can video, and Obama Art are all examples of Web 2.0 tools of video sharing and blogs being used to create meaning.  Add into the mix, the fourth estate (the press) with conservative Glenn Beck posting a video on the Obama National Anthem.

José noted how the Obama campaign will be written up as a “how to” guide on Web 2.0 campaigning, but what will the Web 2.0 president look like?  Given the “social movement” created, will this foster a technologically-mediated interactive democracy or will it just be more clutter?  How will meaning and relevance be maintained and how will the Republicans use Web 2.0 to rebuild?

José offered up observations that the Presidential race might tighten up.  I’ve been thinking that the election is likely to be closer than the polls are indicating.  One hunch of mine that explains the discrepancy is that those supporting a candidate losing momentum are less likely to participate in a poll, along the lines of CORFing (cutting off reflected failure), but in this case it’s cutting off impending doom.  I also wonder how many people who didn’t even vote will jump on the bandwagon after the election, claiming to have voted for Obama–Fauxbamamaniacs?

At any rate, I was in New York (Westchester) last week and read an article by John Heilemann in New York magazine on the next steps for Obama (with the assumption that he will win) and what the margins will be in the House and Senate.  Heilemann notes how Bill Clinton’s first 100 days were chaotic and while Bill also had a Democratic House and Senate, he suffered from a lack of legitimacy in Congress.  Obama, on the other hand, is highly strategic and has a transition plan in the works and will be working with Reid and Pelosi who are likely to need him more than the other way around.

This got me thinking about what I think the political landscape will look like in 2009.   I had my marketing students create electoral map predictions, but unfortunately I saw this compilation on PoliticalMaps after class:

My prediction isn’t all that exciting or controversial (Obama 349:McCain 189).  I see Indiana as going for Obama, due to Lake County in the NW outside of Chicago.  I see the undecideds going for McCain in NC and McCain taking Missouri.  The one’s I’ll be watching are Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, representing 56 electorals.  If Obama loses these states, he would still win, but with less of a “mandate.”   I’ll also be looking for the Ron Paul factor in Montana, but I’m dubious.
I don’t see the Democrats getting the 60 Senate seats they would love to have to be filibuster-proof.  I see a +8 pickup with Franken (MN) and Hagan (NC) squeaking by.  The House it currently at 236-199 and I think the Democrats will add 15 to 18 seats to their majority.  The interesting races (to me) are CA-4 and CO-4 , races in fairly rural districts with candidates who have clear ideological differences.

I’ve been reading sociologist Amitai Etzioni’s thoughts on what he calls commutarianism.  He describes the Clinton presidency on the liberal blog, The Huffington Post, as defying liberal/conservative labels by being commutarian:

[Clinton] certainly did reveal some liberal proclivities, but his welfare reform was clearly in a conservative mode, and he capped most social programs in order to balance the budget. (He ended up generating a surplus which the Bush administration inherited and squandered). At other times, when looking for common ground, promoting volunteerism (AmeriCorps), and trying to defuse tensions between the races and between the religious right and the liberal secularists, Clinton was much more a communitarian than a liberal.

Communitarianism, a social philosophy centered around the concept of community, is hardly a household word and is very unlikely to become one. However, one should consider it — because Barack Obama is easily the most communitarian presidential candidate of all those we have seen for decades.

He later defines commutarianism as being focused on the importance of community, the common good, and service, contrasting it with divisive strategies such as identity politics.  

How does this fit in with the American ideal of individualism?  Hasn’t society become increasingly fragmented to the point where there isn’t a shared society or culture?  Could you just say that Clinton and Obama are simply being pragmatic in their approach?  Isn’t McCain a commutarian, as well?

Politics aside for a moment, I think there’s something to this idea of commutarianism, given sociological research on organizations, well entrenched in the workings of capitalism.  In task-oriented settings, you can have “communities of practice” that go beyond functional areas (e.g., marketing, finance, accounting, etc.) and even organizational boundaries (firms collaborating on innovations or dividing up specialized tasks).  It begs the question of what are the true drivers of collaboration in politics that go beyond immediate self-interest?  Is it trust?  Framing activities as uniting common causes?  All of the above?

I think it’s hard to be communitarian in certain contexts and one only has to look at office politics to see evidence of this.  Nevertheless, I think that as a philosophy that can be embedded in a set of values, commutarianism can foster a shift in priorities.  These shifts could be good or bad, so I don’t feel that commutarianism is a panacea.  I do feel that these shifts require a critical mass of shared values and the meanings behind them.  I don’t think a lot of this is new, but I think what is new is getting the general populace thinking and behaving in these terms and replicating this over time.

Canada is set to vote in less than two weeks on October 14th.  It’s a parliamentary system, so voter choices at the representative level (MP=member of Parliament) in each district (riding) determine who the prime minister is.  The major parties are the Conservatives (far right & center-right), Liberals (center-left), New Democratic Party (left), Bloc Quebécois (regional), & the Greens.  The Bloc is a Quebéc-only party that has fallen out of favor this year.  The big issue this year is whether the Conservatives can get a majority government.  Currently, they have a minority government but with over 50% of the ridings (155 seats), they can get a majority, which means they would have much more power.

We’ve been talking about frames a lot, so let’s see how these play out in Canadian satire using kids to portray the party leaders.  Rick Mercer is in the same vein as Stewart/Colbert and a friend at Ipsos in Vancouver sent the following video around.  The players & some perceptions:

  • Stephen Harper:  Conservative & leader of minority government (“W”-like, from the oil-rich west [Alberta], hoping for a majority, emphasizing the economy and “stay the course” mentality, leader of party doing well in the polls now, good at framing & evading)
  • Stephane Dion: Liberal (embraced green issues & carbon taxes, nerdy/egghead reputation, has French accent and is linked to past separatist sentiments in Quebéc, leader of a party suffering from weakness now)
  • Jack Layton: NDP (strength metaphor, charismatic, resurgence since Liberal party has faltered)
  • Elizabeth May: Green (seen as splitting the vote on the left)

The latest polls show that the Conservatives will likely win, but fall short of a majority.  The NDP was hoping to be second, but they’re unlikely to overtake the Liberals.  The election will be decided by 45 “battleground ridings.”  I’ve been following this election since I spend summers in Toronto and figuring out Canadian politics.  I must admit that I find the US election cycle fatiguing… January 2007 – November 2008.  In contrast, this Canadian election season officially started on September 7, 2008 when Parliament was dissolved.


Ségo Royal
Ségolène Royal-President of the Poitou-Charentes regional council (France)

Bear with me with my French references.  First Bourdieu and now Ségolène Royal. Last spring, I followed the Royal/Sarcozy campaigns in the French Presidential elections, which was full of frames.  Ségolène wasn’t a folksy “hockey mom” type with (say) non-Parisian French and a homespun demeanor of  a country “girl” from Provence.  No, “Ségo” was a “hottie” Socialist, who was the daughter of a general and a disciple of François Mitterand in the 1980s.  She and her romantic male partner, François Hollande (also a Socialist politician) both won seats in 1988 and rose in the ranks of the party throughout the 1990s.  Despite having 4 children out of wedlock, Ségo navigated the French culture wars.  I’m sure it helped she was deemed as sexy and charming.  Her version of femininity resonated with many.  In early 2006,, true to type when it comes to missing the point, had an article comparing Ségo Royal to Hillary Clinton.  The similarities are superficial and incidental in my book, but the Salon piece did bring up two issues:  (1) the issue of credibility and (2) having an ideologically confused message/platform.  In a post mortem article on her loss, these issues would sink her, along with Sarcozy’s “on code” messages tapping into the concerns and worries of many French citizens.  While her specific “femininity” frame may have helped her, it may have also been a dual-edged sword.  What are the “rules” for a woman be sexy and credible with the masses?  In the end, Ségo’s credibility was hurt by her policies seeming improvised, as she was campaigning.  In addition, the socialist “code” wasn’t on track and failed to resonate with the fragmented left.

How can this relate to McCain/Palin?  I think that McCain was expecting to use Palin as a critical “selling proposition” to the ticket, in addition to having a “wow” factor.  I think Palin was expected to mobilize the conservative base while still having appeal to the moderate “everyperson,” i.e., hockey moms and Joe Six-pack.  If Palin is going to be front-and-center and in the campaign trenches, I’m afraid the “credibility” issue will always be an albatross.  She has been framed in a certain way and now she has to expend so much energy to dispel that perception.  Think Swift Boat veterans in 2004.  Was she framed this way due to her gender or her brand of femininity?  Even if she appears competent and knowledgeable, is the public primed to expect a gaffe from her and will this undermine the credibility of the entire ticket?