His point can be summarised as thus: an increasing number of Americans, contrary to popular opinion at home and abroad, are increasingly ‘progressive’ in their views on various issues from unions to abortion. A steadily decreasing number see themselves as Republican (only 25%), and an increasing number should be voting for the Democrats. The problem is that people are not voting Democrat in increasing numbers because for some reason they don’t think the party is aligned with their views (even if it is). The broader point is about the viability of polling but there’s some interesting data about the increasing number of socially liberal Americans, who happen to be drowned out by ‘the God squad’, so to speak.
Two points spring to mind.
Firstly, the analysis seems to tally with the broad ideology of the netroots in America, who argue that the problem with the Democrats isn’t their stance, but that they’re not confident enough of their liberal-progressive credentials and do not market them well enough. Markos also argues in his book, which I’m currently reading, that there are other factors such a right-wing media machine able to drown out Democrat messages.
In a recent private conversation we had, Gracchi said the problem with the netroots is that they’re obsessed about marketing rather than ‘the truth’ about what should be done. I somewhat agree. But this article shows that sometimes marketing a political message can be as important as the content itself. No?
Which brings me to the second point. Someone else recently remarked to me that New Labour’s problem is that it had become too good at marketing itself to the electorate and positioning itself favourably, but in the process lost touch with its grass-roots and its intellectual heart. It had essentially become a giant marketing machine. I agree. The problem is that, as the old saying goes: you can fool some people all the time, fool everyone some of the time, but you can’t fool everyone all of the time.
Gordon Brown realises he has to sound so different to Blair that he doesn’t sound as if he’s in the business of marketing (or spin as we call it) himself. The problem is any more attempts at positioning himself as anti-spin will be seen as further evidence of spin. The only way out of that, as I see it, would be to do what marketers and spinners hate to do: admit they got it wrong.
So will Brown start his premiership with a series of apologies? He may do that with Iraq, and he would be right to, but we don’t know if he’ll go further. He could do a u-turn over ID cards too. That would sky-rocket his popularity in my view. The other point to make would be that New Labour should rely less on polls to figure out what the centre-ground is and more on delivering policies that work. That way it can move the consensus to the left rather than have to go over to the right.
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