Kurt Anderson’s insight
August 28, 2006, 10:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In his latest NYMag column has insight, too. Humor as the new gravitas– when you fold The Onion and Jon Stewart together you get a world view that truly reaches those of us who are cynics (once defined by a friend of mine as the real romantics).


Substitution game
August 28, 2006, 10:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

From the Times endorsement of Green for AG, this sentence:

“Mr. Cuomo has the backing of almost every establishment Democrat in the state, many of whom hope to reap the spoils if he wins…”

Substitute “Spitzer” for Cuomo and you have something insightful.

Nick Hornby on “How to Read” applies to politics
August 26, 2006, 7:20 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, marketing, writing/language

Nick Hornby had a piece in the London Telegraph that displays compassion about readers who just can’t get through the latest biography of an early 20th century figure– and he’s right. Slogging through is overrated. The peice also held this nugget:

“If reading books is to survive as a leisure activity – and there are statistics that show that this is by no means assured – then we have to promote the joys of reading, rather than the (dubious) benefits.

“I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. But please, if you’re reading a book that’s killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren’t enjoying a television programme…”

So many political practitioners are, frankly, humorless grinds– who are willing to do anything ANYTHING to win. That intensity obliterates their humanity, and renders them ill-suited to use humor and emotion to make their legitimate points. “Benefits” based appeals aren’t always enough to put you over the top.

Tech anecdote applies to politics, and marketing
August 24, 2006, 1:22 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, marketing

This from Tim O’Reilly’s blog describes a phenomenon that applies to politics:

In the meetings, there would be great developer debate, but from time to time, one of the representatives would (apologies to Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light) put on his “corporate aspect.” His posture would change, the timbre of his voice would deepen, and he would shift to the third person. Rather than “I think,” he would say “Apollo believes” or “Digital believes.”

This phenomenon manifests itself subtly, in different ways with different people…

When some people become candidates, they start projecting what they think candidates should sound like, rather than being more themselves AS a candidate…

When others run for the first time and win, and start holding office for a while, they get so enmeshed in jargon and insiderey-ness, that they start sounding like the “Digital believes” drone described above. (This also occurs because no one ever tells an incumbent officeholder to shut up when they start droning)

Less abstract examples are John Kerry and Al Gore, who are, by most accounts, smart and funny and ingratiating in person– but when put in a public-speaking role or in front of a camera, become stentorian (“And I say to you…”).

The American Experience could be described as a relentless drive toward informality where those in charge (or want to be) are judged by how much of a “regular” person they are– but the measure of “regularness” is moving.

Ad hominem
August 9, 2006, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is just a shame.
This is the kind of ad hominem rage that gives bloggers a bad name.

Maxine Waters, kingmaker? Huh? And what is “somewhat” racist, exactly?

Subtext in communications
August 9, 2006, 6:55 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, marketing, writing/language

Subtext exists in all media– but here’s a great description of exactly how much can be communicated “between the lines” even if the “lines” are just the beeps of a telegraph operator. (thanks to

Further proof, if any was needed, that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that communicates your point of view.

Especially important for first-time candidates to understand: don’t write off any element of your voter-contact media– as “just” a mailer, or “just” what the TV says. Everything the voter receives allows a voter to judge you. Mail out a grungy attack, and be judged as grungy. Put up a feel-good, contentless TV ad, and be prepared when someone else’s is more substantive, relevant, and thus more powerful.

To quote ad pro David Ogilvy (a long time ago): “The consumer is not an idiot; she is your wife.”

How “networked” are political sites?
August 7, 2006, 10:01 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers, web

A key measure of relevance for a website is its “network effect” — the number of inbound and outbound links to that site’s pages. Google uses a patented algorithm to probe for that networkedness and ranks sites with more (authentic) links higher up in the rankings.

Bivings rated this aspect of site relevance.

The webheads (Bivings and others) looking at this need to understand that (at least on the D side of things) most campaigns are lucky to have any site up that isn’t brochureware (or the slight notch above brochureware whose main purpose is harvesting emails for later fundraising pitches).

Real disclosure of a candidate’s persona on the web– in a myspace or personal-blog kind of way– just isn’t gonna happen very quickly. Most campaign communications infrastructure have been very command-and-control, not at all a series of small pieces loosely joined.

Getting the beltway’s Gang of 400 <tm The Note> comfortable with decentralization could have a perverse effect– more noise from more sources could further obscure accountability for success or failure (one of Kos’s main complaints about the Consultant Culture).

If Lamont loses, for example, how much could be pinned on the blackface shot — which is plausibly responsible for the last-week tightening by five points in the Quinnipiac poll??