Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Quick Question: If conservative pundits really believe that a Ned Lamont victory will destroy the Democratic Party, why hasn't a single major conservative pundit endorsed Ned Lamont?--Chris

Just arrived in the New Haven office. I knew which building it was in because of all the news vans outside. Passed around one dozen volunteers on my way in, and there were another dozen in the office. I'm chatting with Tom Schaller right now. He says there is a lot more activity here than in the Lieberman New Haven office. A new volunteer seems to come in to ask to work the polls tomorrow every five minutes or so. There will be a press conference here in about half an hour, and Matt should be there too.

During my train ride on the way in, I was thinking about the poll numbers. As I am sure everyone knows by now, the Q-poll results from earlier today showed the first pro-Lieberman trend of this entire campaign. Lamont led 54-41 in the July 25-31 sample, but the gap had closed to 51-45 in the August 1-6 sample. While margin of error makes it entirely possible that the previous sample had projected too high a lead for Ned Lamont and this sample projects too low of a lead, it is more likely that Lieberman has indeed made up some ground. As nervous as this makes me, it also does not strike me as surprising considering the national attention paid to the race and the massive political and media establishment forces we are up against.

When it comes to influencing elections, the progressive movement tends to use an avant-garde and alternative media approach not dissimilar to viral marketing. In this model, influential, highly politically engaged progressives participate within new progressive organizations and media and then disseminate the ideas of those organizations and media through their like-minded, but less politically engaged, social, familial, and employment circles. When it comes to transforming the opinion of the Democratic rank and file, this model is most effective when the establishment media is not paying attention to a race. Without the media, the only people around to inform low-information voters on the state of a campaign are political campaigns themselves and, most importantly, friends of low-information voters who pay attention to politics. It is in this way that the class of progressive activist that I have repeatedly called the working class of the political activist world actually becomes the avant-garde of the rank-and-file. When matched up against establishment candidates, dominating the avenues of viral progressive marketing is the single biggest strategic advantage in the possession of the effective movement candidate. From the Connecticut bloggers, to the "kiss" float, to Ned Lamont's fantastic campaign commercials, for quite some time Lamont's campaign was a textbook case of viral marketing, and so he continued to rocket upward in the polls, even among low information voters.

The problem Lamont's campaign and his supporters now face is that we are up against the largest onslaught of top-down, corporate-style marketing in favor of an establishment candidate in a Senatorial primary, probably ever. As someone who is a keen watcher of Google News trends, this is certainly the most attention the media has given to a Senate race of any kind since at least Clinton v. Lazio in 2000, and I cannot imagine any Senatorial primary in history that would have received more national media attention than this one. Worst of all, almost of none of this coverage is pro-Lamont. Instead, we have been subjected to endless paeans of Joe Lieberman and ominous prophecies of the end of the world, or at least of the Democratic Party, should any Democrat dare vote against him. Throw in Lieberman's thousands of paid volunteers, the dozens of direct mailers sent on Lieberman's behalf by advocacy organizations, the massive edge in both radio and television advertising Lieberman holds, and the endorsement of what seems like every elected Democrat on the planet, and low information voters have quite a bit more to turn to than their politically engaged progressive friends (assuming they have any friends that fit that definition) when it comes to this campaign now. As impressive as the pro-Lamont viral marketing has been, the establishment response over the past few weeks has grown to a level five establishment panic hurricane.

While I still believe Lamont will prevail, I expect the result to me more like the 2% in IL-06 than the enormous, poll-busitng victories for movement candidates Jon Tester in Montana and Jerry McNerney in CA-11.Tester and McNerney's campaigns received negligible media coverage, as neither candidate had to deal with a deluge of national pundits decrying how their impending victories would be destructive to the Democratic Party, and how their opponents were the greatest human being to walk on the face of the earth. As depressing as it may be accept, at this point in the development of the progressive movement, the less establishment media attention that is given to an election, the better a movement candidate will probably do in that election. The movement just does not have enough friends in the establishment yet. We don't have enough direct reach within our audience yet. This race was almost inevitably going to get closer considering the forces lined up against us, but I remain confident that our creativity and energy, combined with the general ineffectiveness many of Lieberman's supporters have shown in recent years, will also us to prevail despite being overwhelmingly out-resourced.

Tags: CT-Sen, Joe Lieberman, Media, Ned Lamont, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Okay- the end part- the predicition is where I think you veer off into pessimism. I think your other cautious statements are good ones to make. but predictions of such a close race without more to go on than- they got  a machine seems a bit odd and out of place. First all the advantages you mention have been in place since the begining. Second, whats more you are dealing with an incumbent versus a challenger. There is simply no way that 18 year veteran should even have polls with a 6 pt spread with his oppoent ahead in his own parties primary. I dont care how difficult it is to gauge these things. This simply shouldn't according to the most basic of poli sci 101 theories of politics be the case for an incumbent w/ high name recognition, heavy support that existed for months now and a lot of money behind him. Third, most voters by now have already made their decision- not just this week, but probably in the last few weeks. Fourth, you have to realize, again I sometimes think y'all are new to politics, that the best Lieberman can hope for is probably not to lose in a landslide rather than Lamont can hope for a squeaker. Fifth, if the annecdotal evidence is correct- which I dont have any reason not to believe it- then unless you know something we aren't hearing froom the o utside- the numbers are favoring Lamont. Sixth, in the black press, having folks like Danny Glover and Maxine Waters support Lamont is huge. There are others- but I think you get the point. Don't be so pessimistic- realism is good, but not pessimism before you have to be.  Is this because you have lost so much you assume it at this point?

by bruh21 2006-08-07 01:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

bruh21,

I don't think Chris is being pessismistic here, just realistic.  The netroots/progressive movement is doing great, but it's still got a ways to go in building the kind of experience and infrastructure and horsepower that it takes to challenge the established political and economic interests.

Check out Matt's post below that reveals some of the big money coming in at the last moment to support Lieberschmuck.  It's clear that the Big Guys are feeling threatened by Lamont and the prospect of real participatory democracy.  They have a lot of firepower, and I think Chris just wants us to be sober and acknowledge the realities.  Know thine enemy....

by global yokel 2006-08-07 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

I defended his points about what are the facts that maybe ont he ground. Indeed, I defended him this weekend over the same sorts of points. There is adifference between defending realistic analysis (ie, pointing out what the other guy got) and defendig well we will be lucky if we can get this by two. That part is spin control, and thats fine, but thats what it is. Whereas the other stuff in his post- even the one above- is for the most part okay. its only the prognostication where he gets in trouble. he cant and we cant know that. the best we can do is to say given what we know it aint over until its over.

by bruh21 2006-08-07 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

"I don't think Chris is being pessismistic here, just realistic."

He sound more naiive than pessimistic. Either way, none of this matters. Do you think the people of Connecticut, who are so against this president and his policies, would vote for a republican? It seems like if Lamont wins the primary, even if Joe runs as  an Independent, he's toast. The republicans can't do anything with this race except on a national level, which means they can pain the Democrats and anti-war critics as crazy people for electiving Ned Lamont. Will it be too late? Probably. Or, I would hope to God, yes.

by matbiscan 2006-08-07 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

"Quick Question: If conservative pundits really believe that a Ned Lamont victory will destroy the Democratic Party, why hasn't a single major conservative pundit endorsed Ned Lamont?--Chris"

Simple, they endorse Lieberman because they know it makes him look bad among his constituents. They want Lamont to win. I read in the WSJ today an Op-Ed against Lamont, because he had no experience in government and is only a businessman, they kept calling him an elitist with no real policy other than being against George Bush. We've all heard the line before. The thing is, will that win on a state level? It would probably win on a national level, but we've got jerks from around the country that believe they know what the people of Connecticut want.

by matbiscan 2006-08-07 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Too clever by half.

The simple truth is that the right-wing and conservative pundits are endorsing Lieberman because they like him and what he provides them.  They're too vain and self-important to imagine that their endorsement could have a negative effect.

by mgmonklewis 2006-08-07 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Balogne. The republicans would slit his throat the first chance they could get, which is right now. He doesn't have an R after his name, so he's useless. They're either really smart or extremely stupid. I'd side with the first on that. Delay endorses Lieberman? The most partisan of all republicans is siding with a democrat? Looks desperate, an attempt to brand Lieberman further down the worthless hole he dug for himself.

The only thing Lieberman is good for with the republicans is that they can use him as an excuse of "bipartisanship." A total lie. Just listen to Sean Hannity's interview with Lieberman. He practically felt Joe up. Joe thinks these people like him. He doesn't even know how he's being used. It's depressing. Every other person on the left see's that, see's how inneffective he is. That's the heart of the matter.

by matbiscan 2006-08-07 02:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

How could we better fuse these two marketing techniques in future, Democratic vs. Republican contests?  That would be the best of both worlds, no?

by rfahey22 2006-08-07 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

bruh21 is absolutely correct, good points ended with overly pessimistic outcome. I stand by my double digit Lamont prediction.  Lieberman has done nothing this past week to become stronger and CT voters and especially Democratic Primary voters are way too smart to drink the Kool-Aid that we have seen served up by the pro Lieberman forces this week. the 51 to 45 number with 4 percent undecideds and we know the undecideds break three to one for the challenger translating into a 54 to 46 result for Lamont if you buy the polls margin of error will not tilt Lamaonts way.

by politics64 2006-08-07 02:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

While I still believe Lamont will prevail, I expect the result to me more like the 2% in IL-06 than the enormous

A) Typo?
B) Duckworth=Lamont, Cegelis=Lieberman?
C) Expecting a Lamont loss?

by ltsply2 2006-08-07 02:44PM | 0 recs
Eh,

I think believing that someone will win an election by two points is a little dumb.  No poll can be that precise. If you think someone will win by 2, you really think it's close to a coin toss. (Well, you can say maybe you think there's a 70% chance or something) but really, you don't know.  Could go either way. I was really hoping for a super blowout, but man a close race would make victory so much sweeter. :P

If we lose, that would suck.

by delmoi 2006-08-07 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

is the point about this post that viral marketing works great unless it hits the mega-conglomerate when it flounders.

by ab initio 2006-08-07 03:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Win or lose, Lamont is a new paradigm.

After the Rovian shitfest that Americans have been subjected to for the past 20+ years, Lamont is a class act.   The Kiss Float one  of the most ingenius pieces of political communication in memory; snarky, smart, and creative.  And low budget.  

Since the dawn of television and the dwindling clout of the union bosses and strong parties, American politics lost meaningful 'feedback loops' between policy makers and the public.  US Sens hail from Tobacco, Oil, Steel, and Defense Contractors -- rather than from NC, Texas, PA, or FL.

We're watching the emergence of a feedback loop -- and those politicos who benefit under the old paradigms  of photo ops, polls, and tv ads simply have no conceptual framework for the emergence of new social networks.   Blogs were never intentionally designed to illuminate how corrupt, lifeless, and weak the political system has become; nevertheless, once they started engaging people, the contrast between old and new has been striking.  

For at least a generation, voter turnout has declined sharply; during that same period, political rhetoric (from Willie Horton ads in 1988 to Swift Boating in 2004) has become so  disgusting that many people have simply given up voting.

Whether Ned wins the election is an important question, but the larger, more significant issue in my mind is whether MORE VOTERS turn out.  Ned certainly could have Swift Boated, and he could have allowed others to spread rumors; instead, it appears that he did a solid job of insisting that things run pretty clean (and when they didn't, he insisted they be cleaned up).  

If Ned Lamont is able to bring out new voters, then 'winning the election' is the icing on the cake.  Ned Lamont has run one of the 'cleanest' above-board campaigns, with the most creative, funny communication that I've seen.  This is something new.  

Will it attract people who previously felt that they didn't need to bother voting because politics was 'only about lies and sleaze'?  If Ned can attract even 10,000 people who would otherwise not have believed that voting was worth the effort, then we're seeing something new.

There are more facets to this race than how the votes fall -- this race is a sign of emerging talent, emerging integrity, emerging ideas, and renewed insistence on competence, reason, and accountability.

It is a sight to behold.  

by readerOfTeaLeaves 2006-08-07 08:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Quick Question: If conservative pundits really believe that a Ned Lamont victory will destroy the Democratic Party,
 why hasn't a single major conservative pundit endorsed Ned Lamont?--Chris

Well, if Rove and his ilk really are the kung-fu masters everyone thinks they are, the explanation would be that having all the wingnuts, Coulter, Hannity, et al endorse Lieberman will cause a backlash among the more partisan primary voters, ensuring a win for Lamont.

So, they endorse the candidate they really want, and when their endorsements result in his loss and a victory for the folks whose policy positions are anathema to them, this means the democratic party is, in their eyes, marginalizing itself.

Think of it this way, some moderate Republican is running against Judge Roy Moore for Senate, or Governor. Then Michael Moore comes out and endorses the moderate, the wingnuts get angry, and elect Roy Moore.The (theoretical) Democrats then sit back and laugh at the Republicans marginalizing themselves by electing such extremists.

Why they tell us this is another question, and can result in that "turtles all the way down" feeling.

My meager advice, do what you feel is right, and screw what they think.

by justathought 2006-08-08 12:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Viral Marketing Versus a Mega-Conglomerate

Exactly. It looks like the republican strategy is to cut Lieberman's throat, make it appear like democrats are "crazy" by voting for an extremist. What is an extremist, anyway? Is Ned Lamont really extreme? If opposing the Bush administration is an "extreme," position, or realizing that Iraq needs to be reassessed in a serious way, then the republicans have more problems than they think they do. Or maybe they know they have problems and they're willing to drag everyone down with their sinking ship. 12 years of corruption, power mongering and red meat, they can't help dig themselves out of that deep-ass hole.

That is exactly why you do what you feel is right and screw what they think. Lamont's campaign was pure genius, becuase he kept it honest and on the offensive, which every democrat should look at as a model in the future. Compare that to Kerry's campaign...most of the time I found myself begging him to not say anything!

by matbiscan 2006-08-08 06:31AM | 0 recs

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