October Surprises Don't Exist Anymore
To Win Elections In November You Have To Work All Year
In the never-ending fight over strategy for the Democratic Party and liberalism, one often idea that I’ve seen repeated far too often is this concept of waiting until we are closer to an election before making a move.
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The thought is that the American public has extremely short attention spans (this is true!) and so, in order to have either a message or policy stick in their collective minds, its best to wait until as close to the election so that it helps to motivate votes.
Last Minute Advertising And Policy Doesn’t Really Work Anymore
In a practical sense, people seem to believe this means dropping a bunch of advertising or enacting some policy (like student debt relief) later in the year.
I can understand this impulse. We’ve been trained over time to think that the last minute action can determine the fate of an election, the infamous “October surprise” that gets those last minute voters who aren’t paying attention to finally pay attention or even if they were planning to vote, could possibly sway their votes.
But this is an outmoded way of thinking about media, policy, and how Americans vote. For all intents and purposes I believe the October surprise is dead, and that Democrats will need to adapt to the new reality.
People no longer pay attention to political ads the way they used to. Especially outside of the period directly before an election. Merely running an ad in this time is just so much white noise.
The same is true for timing policy to this narrow window as well. Even if there is a bump in awareness, it still peters out and is a risky bet to get people out to the polls.
How Conservatives Do It Right
The conservative movement has been engaged for decades in a smear/propaganda campaign laying the groundwork for their voters to get them constantly engaged in politics. It is a movement, via the Republican Party, Fox News, pressure groups and other media entities, that does not wait until election season to activate. Conservatives are always doing politics and they do politics from election to election. Their core voters are always engaged.
This is a vastly different, and superior, model to the one currently used by Democrats and the wider liberal movement. Democrats have a habit after an election is concluded of essentially stopping politics only to focus on policy, then reengaging in “politics” when its closer to an election.
But this is a big part of the reason why it’s so damned hard for Democrats to get their base of voters and otherwise inclined voters to show up anytime outside of a presidential election or when there isn’t a (legitimate) boogeyman like George W. Bush or Donald Trump motivating their votes.
After an official election is concluded, politics should proceed, almost as if the election never happened. What this means in a practical day-to-day sense is calling out the opposition, reminding the public at large about how the opposition is an existential threat to life as they choose to live it, while also reminding the public that they - Democrats/liberals - are doing popular, good things to improve people’s lives.
Conservatives tell their voters every day that liberals and Democrats are ruining their lives. They continually make it clear that every negative emotion felt by a conservative voter is the fault of Democrats. Were you stuck in traffic? That’s Barack Obama’s fault. Are you upset at gas prices? That’s Kamala Harris’ fault. Not happy that a woman is the lead character in the new Star Wars movie? Obviously the work of Joe Biden.
What this does is lay a groundwork for a story. Now when a Democrat makes a real screw up, the conservative infrastructure is able to say, “See? This proves the thing we keep telling you about how liberalism is all bad for us. We were right all along. Now make sure you show up to vote for a Republican this November to fix that.”
It means they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every fall. That’s an enormous advantage when often Democrats are still struggling around September-October to remind their core voters that there’s even an election coming up (and they usually do it by suddenly showing up at Black churches, but that’s a story for another day).
What Can Be Done (And It Can Be Done)
The “good” thing for Democrats and liberals is that there is no lack of material on which to build a case for voting for the party and against Republicans. Every single day across the United States, conservatives, conservative policy, and the Republican Party are screwing things up for the average person.
It just needs to be regularly pointed out. It isn’t sexy or exciting or wonky, I’m afraid, but it is consistent. And that’s what you need for groundwork-laying.
Currently Republicans are on a tear attacking transgender children and families, while at the same time doing their damndest to outlaw abortion. Oh, and of course they’re regularly being racist and misogynist. And there’s the rampant corruption not only by Republican politicians, but also by business and industry given free reign by conservative policies that reward them with tax breaks and lax-to-nonexistent government oversight.
By pointing out these things, in precise, accessible language using existing communications networks - social media, public relations, etc. The foundation for election motivation can be laid. Suddenly there won’t be the pressing need, like a student on the eve of a big exam, to cram for the test on the night before by dropping ads and policy in October.
In politics now, there is no more offseason. It’s always gameday.
Kal-El Photo EXCLUSIVE
Kal-El is a good boy - they’re all good boys - and when I take him out to walk, I’m always required to pet his head, just as an affirmation of this fact. He just turned 3 last week.
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