Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The power of groceries in projecting national strength 4 – adding in from anywhere to anywhere communications and interactive online access 1

Posted in macroeconomics, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on July 12, 2014

This is my fourth posting to a series on how nation states project an image of their strength, and of their concerns, their aspirations and their values (see Macroeconomics and Business, postings 171 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I focused in Part 3 on the early 21st century case study example of the 2008 United States presidential election campaign for how emerging computer systems and online communications capabilities were used effectively by the Democratic Party, but not by their Republican opponents. Barack Obama understood and used new and emerging big data capabilities and the interactive internet and online social media in ways and with an effectiveness that the Republican Party still cannot match.

My goal for this posting is go step back from the particulars of that year’s presidential campaigns to consider the role that ubiquitous computing and communications capabilities are coming to take in any political endeavor, and in any political context. And as I at least occasionally do, I begin this discussion with concluding points that I will then step back from, so that I can build a supporting foundation for stating them.

The two most important points that I could offer here as general operational and strategic guidelines are that:

1. It has become fundamentally impossible to share a local audience-targeting message without it becoming widely and even globally visible, and subject to widespread and even global analysis and criticism.
2. And there may still be local special interest demographics that you would want to reach out to and connect with – or deny politically. But even the seemingly narrowest and the most geographically isolated demographic group is still globally connected and visible because of that. So any message conveyed pro or con regarding them will reach a global audience. And this means that even the narrowest and the most geographically isolated demographic group is not alone or isolated. Who they are and what values they hold can and do and will resonate widely; they are not narrowly alone after all.

I begin this posting’s discussion with Point 1, above and as an historical starting point I begin that with what might seem an unnecessarily distant historical example: the 1860 US presidential election and the campaigns that led up to it.

The United States was as deeply and rancorously divided going into that election as it ever has been. It was literally on the verge of entering into a full blown civil war and one that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And the American politick was fractured. When this election took place, there were four presidential contenders who won Electoral College votes, taking at least one state in the election returns. At least as of this writing, that is unique in American political history.

The Republican Party fielded one candidate for president after its primaries: Abraham Lincoln. The Democratic Party split for this election, fielding Stephen A. Douglas as a Democratic candidate and John C. Breckinridge as a Southern Democratic candidate. And John Bell ran as the Constitutional Union Party candidate, taking 39 Electoral College votes and three states on a platform that basically denied the relevance or value of either Republican or Democratic Party hopefuls and of whatever stripe. The nation was divided and all of these presidential hopefuls faced wide diversities of voting audiences that they had to win over if they were to have any chance of winning this election as a whole. (You can find biographical links to these candidates in the article that I offer a link to, above, re the 1860 US presidential election.)

Lincoln and Breckinridge were the two strongest candidates in the end with Lincoln taking the North plus California and Oregon, and Breckinridge taking the majority of the South. But that conclusion stated as is, simply masks over a great deal of confusion and uncertainty that were in play during the 1860 presidential election campaigns and over a lengthy period leading up to that election. In the end, Douglas only took one state and 12 electoral votes for example but it is telling that many of the key issues for 1860 were brought into sharp and rancorous focus in 1858 during the newspaper-broadcast Lincoln-Douglas debates.

In 1858 and in 1860, candidates and would-be candidates gave public speeches to local audiences. And then word of this was shared more nationally via newspaper recounts. And essentially any and every candidate could and did craft messages to address the needs and interests of the locally situated audiences directly in front of them at the time. And to pick up on one candidate and one complex of issues, Lincoln gave differently nuanced and even frankly differently stated views on slavery in his speeches depending on where he was and who he was trying to influence and win over in his immediate audience.

That could and did work in an age when news traveled slowly and when widespread news coverage was limited to the printed word as it would appear in newspapers, at least for more rapid and immediate coverage. When Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a then still new radio technology as a new communications channel, opportunity for a locally formulated and stated message to stay local was greatly diminished. And when Kennedy faced early generation television coverage as his newly available communications channel, the veil of presumed local-only secrecy was pulled back farther. But even when political discourse faced a more mature television technology with its capacity to bring news from seemingly anywhere to anywhere, politicians still tried crafting local-only messages that would not work positively for them when and if more widely visible. The rise and spread of the internet, and particularly the Web 2.0 interactive internet tore away any possibility of local-only anywhere and on even the seemingly most local interest only issues. When politics and political discourse play out in an interactive online context anyone and everyone can step in and publically broadcast word of message inconsistencies and of perceived message biases. And that is what we face now.

See Part 2 and Part 3 of this series for their discussions on Roosevelt and Kennedy, and of the 2008 US presidential election campaigns. And with respect to the 2008 campaigns, I specifically note how essentially all of the Republican presidential candidate hopefuls leading up to their primary elections, boxed themselves into corners nationally, from statements they made and positions that they took in order to win over more extremist local demographic support from within the fringes of their own political party. By the time that John McCain won his party’s 2008 nomination, he was already essentially unelectable nationally, from the cumulative damage he created for himself before a national audience, from pandering to his own Party’s extremists and from meeting their particular litmus test requirements. And I noted in passing in Part 3 that the Republicans learned nothing from 2008 going into the 2012 presidential election. They made this same candidacy-killing mistakes then too, leaving Romney fundamentally unelectable nationally too.

I am going to continue this discussion in my next series installment where I will turn to consider Point 2 as initially offered at the top of this posting which I restate here as:

• There are no longer any isolated, local constituencies or issues in a world where any group can globally reach out and connect and where their issues can draw sympathy, support and resonance from seemingly anywhere else and even globally.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and also at Web 2.0 Marketing.

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