The New Triangulation: Obama's Triad of Success

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.

Tags: Barack Obama, George Lakoff, Howard Dean, Saul Alinsky (all tags)



Not a success?

Taking the lead in pledged delegates on day one and never losing it, nor losing in the delegate race on any single day is not a success?

What's your definition of success in campaigns, losing the delegate count on each day elections are held?

by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 05:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Winning in November, obviously.

Fir enough, but to be the front runner agains the most recognized brand in teh Democratic Primary is nothing short of success already.

Adn the Triad I describe is the basis of that success.

by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 05:14AM | 0 recs
Re: It's not clear that Obama could pick

Obama is putting everything into play.

There is no ground game for McCain in Idaho, but there is for whomsoever is the Democratic candidate.

Utah Republicans are not too happy with McCain because of how Romney was treated, and Obama has built a ground game there, too.

The point of those two is the fact that without much effort of financing in the GE, whomsoever is teh nominee will have infrastructure available to compete and thus suck away resources from McCain. By doing this, states like Missouri and Iowa become more competitive.

And that's the whole point of my intial sentence. The successful Triad built by Obama is not predicated upon him winning another primary. It's already been incredibly successful and thus will be a model for any campaign in the future, win or lose.

by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 05:38AM | 0 recs
Obama is going to COMPETE in Idaho

without expending resources due to infrastructure already in place. The resources were expmnded already in the primary. Meanwhile, McCain has no infrastructure in Idaho.

McCain will be forced to expend resources to counter the competition. McCain still will win Idaho, but will have to make an effort.

Resources are finite. Expending resources in Idaho means McCain cannot expend resources elsewhere. This dtracts from efforts in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Iowa, etc. etc. etc.

This is strategy 101. I suggest you take a few hours and read Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 05:50AM | 0 recs
I wouldn't go that far

The fact that he managed to get a relatively small number of people in Idaho to go for him strongly in the Democratic caucus does not say that he has put this state in play.  Ditto with Utah.  No Democrat has a chance of winning these states.

Iowa already is competitive and has been for a long time.  One could argue that it is a Democrat leaning state.  2004 was the first time the state voted Republican for president since 1984 (even then it was one of Reagan's weaker states that year) and it did so only very narrowly in 2004.  Two GOP congressional seats were picked up there in 2006.  Iowa has some investment in Obama having launched him and I fully expect that he will carry this state.

Missouri is a different story.  Obama won only a few areas there - St. Louis city and county, Kansas City area, and the Columbia area (U. of Missouri).  The rest of the state went solidly Clinton in the primary.  We don't know how closely the participation of his supporters approximated general election participation and we don't know what percentage of those who voted against him will cross to the other side.  Missouri is marginal enough (and has enough of a Democratic history) to be in play for any Democrat, but right now I would bet against Obama winning there in November.  

by lombard 2008-02-28 07:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Not a success?
Great Diary. No tip jar?
by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 06:44AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't consider it success

I agree, and in many ways I think Bobby Jindal's earnest, pragmatic, slightly wonkish listening doctor's aura is actually more convincing than Obama's inspirational schtick, which is beginning to slowly fade by the day.

Also do I detect a bit of subtle messaging here that goes something like, if you don't vote for Obama, the Republican rival called Jindal will take the Obama ball away from us dems. Maybe I'm just reading too closely.

One other thing, in your three legged stool should really be a four-legged one. The fourth element being the mainstream media, which has all but acted as a portable oxygen chamber for Obama, giving life to sustain all the other elements of his campaign that you point out.

by superetendar 2008-02-28 05:08AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't consider it success

I thought I was fairly clear, Jindal is positioned already to be a factor in the next primary race for the GOP nomination. Jindal is smart, and will adopt this methodology.

Obama has set a new standard for political campaigns.

by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 05:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Visa versa

we already let the media pick a president, and it was Bush.

by sepulvedaj3 2008-02-28 07:03AM | 0 recs
Re: The New Triangulation: Obama's

I'm a bit confused. Is your comment a general comment or is it directed at me, because this is far from a negative diary.

Full disclosure: I am an Obama supporter, voter, and donor.

by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 05:52AM | 0 recs
Excellent analysis

More on the Lakoff angle...

I find it puzzling - despite falling for it a bit in 2007 myself - that Obama constantly gets accused of using "GOP frames", that he's somehow broken the "Lakoff rules".

As Lakoff himself recently wrote at HuffPo -- in fact, I think many people (and I include myself in that group as recently as last summer's foreign policy/Pakistan speecH) mistakenly read Lakoff through a Mark Penn-like lens...

In other words - I think we viewed Lakoffian framing as a "micro-trend matter".   In fact, framing is a macro-trend matter.... and this has been the success of Obama.

He's co-opted optimism, hope, and change -- things virtually everyone in this nation likes and wants (Clinton supporters, Edwards supporters, McCain supporters, etc) -- and made them "HIS" values.  He's made them Democratic values.

We can bash Reagan till the cows come home -- I'd even join in -- but for all Reagan's dog whistling, no one can deny that he did the same thing in the 80s.

by zonk 2008-02-28 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: The New Triangulation: Obama's Triad of Succes

I think you're hitting on an important point.  Obama looks like the Republican candidates of 2000-2004.  You know, the ones that made the Democrats go "why do all of our candidates suck?".

The ground game for Obama is huge and will probably help the entire Democratic party in November.  True, Texas will not vote Democratic in the GE.  But if we even kept it within 9 points or so, that would be a major success and would probably translate into substantial gains in the State and U.S House of Reps.  Same for places like Georgia, the Carolinas, out West.  Remember, even the Reddest states are composed of maybe 40% Democrats.  That's a large group of people to bring into the process.  It's also a large group of people to ignore by running a 12- or 18-state strategy.

I do see Obama as an inheritor of the Dean strategy.

by the mollusk 2008-02-28 06:27AM | 0 recs
Wow. Visit Reality Much?

Obama's ground organization alone shows that he is a much more prepared and organized leader than any other candidate in this race.

But if that's not enough, we can get into his superior judgement, particularly when it comes to THE defining issue if the 21st Century, that being the ill-conceived invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

Just because your candidate is losing does not mean you should belittle the millions upon millions of people who support Obama as somehow ignorant or naive with your factually-challenged accusation that there is nothing to Obama but a "Facade"

Its ridiculous, and sounds like it came right from the mouth of John McCain.

by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The New Triangulation: Obama's
This IS a positive diary...
by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: The New Triangulation: Obama's

this coming from the person who wrote a diary on how hillary was a cat killer.

No one takes you seriously, not even your fellow Obama supporter.

by sepulvedaj3 2008-02-28 07:04AM | 0 recs


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