American Democracy is Being Undermined by Campaign Staffers



The problems in American democracy are being caused by the people who design and work on national political campaigns, argues scholar Daniel Laurison in his book “Producing Politics”. Laurison suggests that campaign professionals, who often come from privileged backgrounds and have an obsession with politics, exist in an echo chamber that isolates them from the average voter. He believes they focus too much on messaging rather than communicating with potential voters and suggests that campaigns should engage more in the kind of intensive voter outreach touted by groups like People’s Action and Knock Every Door.

The Influence of Campaign Professionals on American Democracy

In Producing Politics, Daniel Laurison argues that the current state of American democracy is influenced by campaign professionals. These individuals, often emerging from specific socioeconomic backgrounds, are the architects of national political campaigns.

The Power of Campaign Professionals

Laurison suggests these operatives yield significant influence over the political climate by deciding who to appeal to, the political messages to disseminate, and the issues candidates focus on. Despite their immense influence, Laurison contends that the strategies used by these political agents often yield inconclusive results on campaign outcomes.

From Campaign Worker to Researcher

Having previously worked on Democratic campaigns, including Barack Obama’s 2008 bid, Laurison uses his first-hand experience to explore the world of campaign professionals. His research includes over seventy interviews with Democratic and Republican campaign operatives, offering insight into their motivations and understanding of their roles.

The Culture of Campaign Professionals

Regardless of political affiliation, Laurison discovered that campaign professionals typically share similar socioeconomic backgrounds, educational pedigrees, and a deep-seated passion for politics. However, he notes this environment creates an echo chamber, distancing these professionals from the average voter.

The Problem with Messaging

Laurison argues that the preoccupation with campaign messaging has resulted in a one-sided dialogue with potential voters. He suggests that more meaningful engagement with voters could transform political campaigns from performances into conversations, thereby encouraging a more active and meaningful role for the public in the political process.

Canvassing: A More Engaged Approach

He recommends the adoption of strategies such as ‘deep canvassing’, as used by Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids and other campaigns, to foster more substantial dialogues with potential voters.

Policy vs. Politics

Laurison criticises the separation of politics and policy within campaigns, arguing that this approach neglects the potential to improve voters’ lives. He suggests that a more inclusive and democratic approach to campaigns can better appeal to the broader public by involving working-class candidates and people at the centre of progressive politics.

Beyond Campaigns and Elections

In encouraging an expanded view of politics that includes non-voters and those unable to vote, Laurison suggests that reading Producing Politics could be a valuable step in redefining the role of politics in society.

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