Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A More Perfect Union

Photo of George Orwell from his 1933 press card
Sasha Issenberg has written a three-part article that appears in MIT Technology Review.  The title of the article is also the title of this post, but here’s the subtitle:

How President Obama’s Campaign Used Big Data to Rally Individual Voters

If you look at the title of the directory in which the Web content for the third article is contained (hotlink above), you see this title:


Mr. Issenberg’s story is about how the Democratic Party uses data mining techniques to predict the voting behavior of Americans.  This is the money quote:

The campaign didn’t just know who you were; it knew exactly how it could turn you into the type of person it wanted you to be.

The article (h/t Instapundit) describes the Democratic Party’s EIPs (experiment-informed programs) that “measure how effective different types of political messages were at moving public opinion.”  One technique was to sequence direct mail to individual voters and then follow-up with survey calls to isolate the particular piece of direct mail that changed voter opinion the most.

The article describes EIP testing done in July of 2012 that focused on equal-pay and health issues for women.  The idea was to pull women to Obama based on a specific message.

It all sounds very academic and innocuous.  That is, until you see one of the ads involved.

In EVERY case, the advertisements depict Mitt Romney as a bad person.  (See my Rope-a-Dope post for a partial listing.)  These are the ads that characterize Mr. Romney as a liar, a person who wants to hurt the middle class, someone who wants you to lose your job, and a rich person out of touch with reality.

The ads were tested with the EIP methodology, and they achieved the necessary outcome.

The MIT article makes no mention of the ramifications of the political techniques being employed.  It simply features the article as a technological extension of focus-group techniques.

If you are a Republican, you might want to focus on the ramifications.  The Democratic Party is using information about voters to manipulate voting preferences.  The Party is honing its negative advertising to create a sense of fear about a certain class of people so that Americans will keep them out of government stewardship.

To think this is not worth noting is a mistake.  Republicans should be concerned that they are being politically “played.”  A couple of instances from current events come to mind…

Republicans are concerned about the “fiscal cliff” and its consequences on the American people, but the Democratic Party has no such concerns.  It simply wants to ensure Republicans come out of the encounter labeled as “uncompromising zealots.”

Republicans are concerned about school safety and practical measures to thwart school shootings, but the Democratic Party simply wants to ensure Americans see Republicans as “violent extremists.”

Watch it unfold on Twitter.
The clear and present danger is that if Republicans continue to focus on policy issues and not political issues, there will be no Republican Party to focus on any issue.

UPDATE 12/20/2012:

Was Mitt Romney the first Republican to be Electro-Borked?

The death of Robert Bork reminds us of character assassination by Senate hearing.  The Democratic Party has now "progressed" to the arena of consumer electronics.  Who will be the next Republican to be Electro-Borked?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cultural Staging

The graphic above is a cultural view of candidates from America’s two main political parties.

From left to right, the pictures are from an Obama speech in Hatfield, Pennsylvania on 11/30/2012 (photo by Jason Reed of Reuters), a Huffington Post article from 11/20/2012, and an Obama speech in Redford, Michigan on 12/10/2012 (photo by Romain Blanquart of the Detroit Free Press).

Two of the pictures feature adoring Americans.

The picture on the left shows Americans hugging president Obama after he spoke about raising taxes on the rich.  The picture on the right shows Americans cheering president Obama after he spoke about right-to-work laws being unfair.

The middle picture is described by The Huffington Post as “A Humbled Mitt Romney Caught Pumping Gas.”

Our culture seems to present pictures of Republicans and Democrats in a slightly different context.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Death of the White Male Republican Presidential Candidate

President Obama and Mitt Romney in the Oval Office after their 11/29/2012 lunch (Photo by Pete Souza).

Here is a thought experiment:

Would the Holocaust have endured for a longer period if Germany’s National Socialist Party had restricted its victims to just white males?  When women and children became a part of the extermination, the world’s sensibilities changed.  Is it possible that death camps for white males would not have been that big of a deal on the world stage?

OK, that first paragraph is an “attention step.”  I want to jar readers into some unconventional thinking.

Stick with me on this.

Republicans are exhibiting a monumental sense of sadness these days, and it is easy to say, “You lost.  Get over it!”  But the sadness is not associated with a one-time election loss.  It is bigger than that.  America has just experienced the end of all future white male Republican presidential candidates.

They will be no more.

Oh to be sure, there will be some political egotist who will make a run for office, but it will fail.  White male Republican candidates for POTUS are the walking dead.  The Democratic Party will ensure that result. 

In an odd twist of fate, Mitt Romney’s candidacy will be Barack Obama’s legacy.  President Obama’s primary achievement in his first term will be the elevation of the art of political character assassination to its pinnacle.  The Democratic Party is forever emboldened.

While that is good for the Democratic Party, it is not so good for the millions of Americans who are classified in that demographic of “White Male Republicans.”  These people have seen the opportunity of serving their country at the highest level foreclosed.

Imagine telling your offspring, “If you wish to be President of the United States, you won’t be able to do that.  You are a white male Republican.”

It almost seems un-American.

Maureen Dowd is particularly good at highlighting the extent of this transformation.  In her column from November 10, 2012, she tells us that white male Republicans are in a “delusional death spiral” and she provides the following quotes about Mitt Romney: 

Romney was an unpalatable candidate.

Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their “traditional” America.

Romney was still running in an illusory country where husbands told wives how to vote, and the wives who worked had better get home in time to cook dinner.

These remarks indicate a certain level of partisanship, and are to be expected from Ms. Dowd.  But why is she so “in your face?”  Where does Ms. Dowd get the “green light” to let it all hang out?

Maureen Dowd watched the 2012 elections and now believes the Democratic Party will stop any white male Republican from ever attaining the Presidency.  She has the triumphalism of a political insider’s understanding of the placement of the trump cards.

Maybe you see where I’m going here, but look at a more recent article from Ms. Dowd.  This one is from November 27, 2012 and is about Senator Susan Collins taking exception to the conduct of U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice.  Here are some quotes from that column: 

Collins drew up a list of questions to ask Rice at their one-on-one hourlong meeting slated for Wednesday. She wants Rice to explain how she could promote a story “with such certitude” about a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video that was so at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access.

Collins said that before she would support Rice for secretary of state, she needs to ascertain what was really going on. “Did they think admitting that it was an Al Qaeda attack would destroy the narrative of Libya being a big success story?” Collins asked.

Collins is curious why Rice is not angrier, if, as she insists, she was repeating what she was told. “I’d be furious at the White House and F.B.I. and intelligence community for destroying my credibility,” the senator said.

Do you see the style difference?  The comments about Mitt Romney are simple declarative sentences.  The comments about Susan Rice are reportorial in nature.

Why the difference in style?  Here’s a clue: Mitt Romney is a white male Republican.  Susan Rice is a black female Democrat.

When running a story about Ms. Rice, Maureen Dowd becomes a reporter.  When running a story about a white male Republican, Ms. Dowd is an opinion journalist.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Maureen Dowd is one of many journalists at work for the Democratic Party.  She has a strong influence on our American culture, and we can expect her opinion of white male Republicans to remain steadfast.

This puts Republicans at a cultural disadvantage, but there is a glimmer of hope.  While any attempt to run a white male candidate will fail, we have other Republicans who can step up.

Condi and Marco, are you taking note?  Now is your time.

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