Political industrial complex

Jeff vonKaenel

The Democrats lost the presidency. They failed to take back the Senate. They only gained slightly in the House. And across the country, they did poorly in the state legislatures. The typical argument is that the party of the people was defeated by large capital interests like the Koch Brothers. But that is not true. The Democrats had plenty of campaign cash, well over a billion dollars.

In fact, Hillary Clinton spent more money than Trump. The Democrats’ problem was the vast array of political consultants, pollsters, election mailing experts and advertising people, the political advertising industrial complex who are getting rich off the current system of expensive political campaigns.

As a newspaper publisher, I meet many people who are running for office. Usually, they are fairly accomplished people with a better-than-average understanding of government.

And then, they hire a political campaign expert. This begins the dumbing-down of their campaign. The expert does some polling to uncover the important issues. Quite often, the issue that polls well is not the candidate’s primary concern. And, often, it is an issue that impacts few people, or sounds good, like “putting America First,” but there is no plan to do it. So, the campaign often begins with a focus on what the electable issues are, not the important ones.

The idea that a political campaign could be used to encourage an important community discussion on critical issues is laughable to the political consultants. In order to win, they must poll to discover the best way to reach the voters on the issues that voters think are important.

Their goal is to tailor a message that connects the candidate with the most voters. This is why there is very little attention to the poor but much to the working class. The poor do not poll well. So they should not be discussed. There often is very little correlation between how the elected official would actually govern and the focus of their message.

The consultants feel that the voters are to be manipulated. The clearest path to victory is to treat them like moldable putty to prod into checking the right box in the polling booth. The political campaign experts’ disdain for the voters is painfully obvious.

But the voters have figured out that they are being played, and they resent it. They realize that when they are sent a campaign mailer with a photo of a multiracial, multi-age group of citizens with poll-tested wording on a poll-tested issue, that they are being insulted. The mailers and TV ads have such a clear and painful message: “You are an idiot for falling for our manipulations. I approve of this ad.”

The Democrats raised more than a billion dollars. Their plan is certainly more in the interest of the poor and the working class than the Republican plan. If the election was fought on real issues, the Democrats would have won. But there is no reason to trust someone whose words have been crafted by polling data. And why should you vote for someone you do not trust?

This election is a wake-up call. The vote for Donald Trump says the voters are tired of being manipulated. That’s why a socialist with few large donations and no polling filter created more passion than the mainstream Democratic machine.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.