The New Triangulation: Obama's Triad of Success
by Walt Starr, Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 04:48:04 AM EST
For the purposes of this diary, I am going to proceed from a base working assumption that Barack Obama will lose the nomination. The reason for this is that does not detract from the success of his campaign, nor does it mitigate the requirement that future campaigns utilize the techniues pioneered by Barack Obama.
As with all pioneering efforts, Barack Obama is standing on the shoulders of giants. I point to three men whose influence on the Obama campaign cannot be ignored. Those would be Saul Alinsky, George Lakoff, and Howard Dean.
To say that the success achieved to date by the Obama campaign are astounding is an understatement. Here you have a junior Senator in his first term going up against the most recognized name and brand in American Democratic Party politics, and succeeding. This success can be explained by three factors, Organization, Framing, and Running Nationally.
Organization - This is the Saul Alinsky leg of Obama's triad of success. Alinsky provided the model for community orgnaization that Obama first used as a community organizer in Chicago's South side during the early nineties. As Tip O'Neil put it so eloquently, "All politics is local." Organizing at the precinct level is a key factor in any election from the Alderman level all the way up to Presidential.
All campaigns organize. The key to success for the Obama campaign has been the efficiency levels produced in the Alinsky model. Because of the methodology utilized for organization at the local level, Obama achieved a far greater return on investment. This frees up funding for other efforts at a higher level, such as the air game. To use the football analogy, Obama secured a superior ground game before pushing the air game.
Framing - This is the George Lakoff leg of the Obama Triad of Success. There are many factors to framing. Words are only a part of it. Framing must be done on all levels. In fact, visual framing is probably most important of all as we are a visual society. The Obama brand, the huge rallies, and the smiling family all served to frame Obama without a word being spoken.
The other key here is Obama needed to frame himself and the overall debate before anybody else could frame him, and he was incredibly successful at it. Recognizing the Change theme in the overall electorate and allowing his biggest opponent's campaign to frame themselves as the status quo through the "experience" frame was a stroke of brilliance. Nobody has been able to knock him off the frame he has already established for himself and it puts his opponents into the unenviable postion of running as the candidate of "No you can't change, it's hopeless" by default.
Running Nationally - This is the Howard Dean leg of the Obama Triad of Success. First, Dean pioneered the methodology of fund raising from very small donors instanteously over the internet. Obama took this to an entirely new level, allowing each success to feed off itself and increase this donation methodology. Achieving more than one million individual donors is truly impressive. This is something nobody has every done before, but will become routine as the American polity become increasingly engaged in the process. This is free market public funding and something the rightwing cannot argue against.
Second is the fifty state strategy. You do not have to win everywhere, but you must compete everywhere. This has proven so incredibly successful that it is the single biggest factor in Obama taking the lead in pledged delegates on January 3 and not yet losing that lead at any point in the contest. Win or lose, that success cannot be denied and this model of competing nationally in a national level will be the model from now on.
Finally, in an information age where instantaneous communication is the standard, the campaign must constantly watch the internet for developing frames and stories. The narrative can shift on a dime, and paying attention is how to stay ahead of the competition.
Conclusion - In closing, I will go on record right now. The next time it looks like the GOP will have an opportunity to win the White House, Bobby Jindal will utilize the Triad of Success to win his party's nomination and to compete with whomsoever is the Democratic nominee. Obama has paved the way to a Jindal success if the Democratic Party does not recognize the factors in Obama's success, and swiftly adopt them. Running nationally is also something that all seats in Congress should consider if for no other reason than for fund raising. The netroots have already proved the success of this strategy. It would be a shame if the Democrats lose out in this area because the Republicans are swift to adopt the model while the Democrats remain mired in the status quo.