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Unleashing the Know Nothings…

One of the first things you do in an election when running a campaign is mobilize and secure your “base” — those voters who, by custom or inclination or even “reason” should be voting for you on election day. Ignoring that base — or assuming its turnout for you (or your candidate) — can be fatal. Thomas Dewey learned that the hard way in the 1948 presidential election…. Karl Rove and the Bush campaign understood and used that truism more than once, and applied it in the conduct of the Bush Administration’s business as well as in the elections.

The problem is that a candidate’s “electoral base”, like all other things, is a political construction — it needs to be “imagined” into existence and sometimes “shaped” (or re-shaped) before it can be targeted for mobilization. Certainly the raw material of disenchanted or indifferent potential voters must be out there, but the key task is giving them definition and cultivating a self-awareness. Not an easy task when talking about an imagined collective. The talent of folks like Rove is that of the sculptor confronting a huge ball of clay — they can see its potential and work their skills into an artistic form.

The problem is that often the more relevant metaphor is that of Dr Frankenstein who seeks to give life to a corpse with a brain transplant. Risky business that….

John McCain confronted his Frankenstein yesterday in front of live camera at a very public town meeting, and you go the distinct impression that it scared the hell out of him.

October 11th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments