Hillary Clinton showed us how it’s done. The response from GOP heavyweights to her announcement; not so much. The UK election campaign so far; nowhere near.
Secretary Clinton started her 19 month job interview (with apologies to 'The Apprentice’) by placing the most important person at the heart of her campaign; the American people. Despite the horrid logo (looks like a cross between a re-run of Dad’s Army and something you’d buy at the chemist) and questionable music, her announcement video was perfect. It reminds us that elections and election campaigns are about the people, not the politicians. Or at least, they should be.
It’s as old as time. Elections are about two messages. Things are going really well, don’t let the other lot in to spoil it; or, it’s going really badly, it’s time for a change. The way these messages are delivered and packaged is what decides the outcome. It need to be something positive. That inspires and motivates not divides. That gets people to the polls on a day when there are always 10 more important or pressing things to do.
Yes, fear has played a role in elections down the years. But elections are very, very rarely won in fear. There are lots and lots of examples of were fear has failed. Tony Blair’s three elections were won by optimism and hope in the face of fear: ‘new Labour, new danger’; demon eyes; save the pound; are you thinking what I’m thinking, etc etc. Please don’t make me go on!
The electorate need to know what’s in it for them; why voting should matter to them and their family; why the vision they are presented with will improve their country, community and lives. They need to know that the person asking for their vote gets it. Gets them. Is in touch with them.
Governors Romney and Bush immediately sent their own message to the electorate yesterday. Their “stop Hillary” message missed the point - the electorate do not want to hear this (apart from a small group whose minds have already been made up and will never be changed). Of course, this is part of a fundraising effort to compete with the oft-quoted $2.5bn Clinton archest (that phrase will be used a lot over the coming months) and there is time for them (the GOP) to get positive and sell a vision for America. But what a depressing way to start a conversation with the electorate.
The current UK election campaign is faring no better. It has so far been a series of statistical exchanges on whose figures are more believable, more robust etc……ZZZZZZZZZ. Sooner or later - please, please - someone needs to offer a positive reason for voting for them. A vision. A message beyond don’t vote for them, they’re rubbish. We need to hear about how our country will be better for ourselves, our families and those who will follow us. There is still time for this but the danger is that by the time we get there (if we ever do) the electorate is so fed up of hearing about the politicians, they won’t listen when the story turns to them.
It is always a balance between leading and listening on the campaign trail and it’s a long, long game, especially in the US. But Secretary Clinton has made a great start. She has shown others the way. It’s is only the top of the first innings - but at least she has started on the right foot.