Sunday 22 March 2009

First thoughts on The Change We Need: the movement, the message, the leader

Three chapters of The Change We Need are now available for download on book’s microsite with the rest coming out tomorrow. Hopefully some important ideas are already starting to become clear.

Central to both David Lammy and Ben Brandzel’s chapters is the idea that the movement and the message are both more important than any individual. Sure, Obama was a great candidate, but far more important were the ideas he ran on, how his seeking the presidency fitted into broader American and progressive history, and the people he had supporting him. On the latter point, Ben’s assertion that the movement pre-dated Obama is absolutely true. If you doubt this, go and have a play with some great data from the American National Election Survey and look at the metrics for 2004, which were way up on previous cycles. This really was people-powered politics driven by a long-term groundswell in re-engagement (if you are interested in this idea, also check out Hais and Winograd’s Millennial Makeover, which argues that politics is seeing a major generational shift).

The key point seems to be that electoral politics is becoming increasingly about building a successful coalition. The question then becomes: how do we structure our organisations to make sure they are able to engage in this kind of activity? That, rather than slavishly copying the Obama approach, is the challenge we face.


Rachael Jolley said...

The key is to reconnect politics with the people via people. Obama's media campaign focused on getting neighbours to knock on their neighours doors to recommend Obama rather than some stranger knocking on their door. This was supremely effective and gave rise to committed ground level support where people really felt they were part of something along with their friends rather than one of the isolated politically engaged as so may feel in Britain.

Zio Bastone said...

It would be nice to feel that 'electoral politics' might at some point be about being nourished by what people actually think, from below, and not about the structuring of organisations so that they resemble this process whilst denying it. (A standard advertising strategy is to present some otherwise uninspiring product as somehow 'chosen for you', the individual consumer.)

It would be nice too if Rachael Jolley's idea (paedophiles recruit their victims in a somewhat analogous way) were to be strangled at birth. Most assuredly it's a case of 'the people' working to find political expression, not the other way around. The 'connection' comes when people feel they have a voice, not when they are used as ventriloquists' hapless dummies. And that means opening up ideas, not half baked marketing strategies.