Blocking, Churning, Baiting, & Wrestling: Can We Make It Until November?

  • by May 19, 2016
A guy I know joked that the political climate on Facebook has become so cruel and polarizing lately that he almost defriended himself. Ba da bum.

But the irony isn’t lost on anyone that now, while Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has conservative party elders lining up neatly behind him, it’s the Bernie people who are threatening to go all Invincible Hulk on the Hillarians.

Yes, in yet another impossible-to predict turn, it looks like the Dems might be the party headed toward a brokered convention, or a sickening, 1968-style melee. Meanwhile, otherwise long-time, devoted friends who find themselves in separate Dem camps are insulting and blocking each other.

In an earlier column, I mentioned how candidate Trump mowed down all of his competitors while upending accepted wisdom about the need for Big Data, or Big Money, to win an election.

Forget the mainstream media, which has so far failed to predict much of anything accurately. Is this the election for which trolling, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and unfiltered death threats set the tone? Are we all turning into "X-File"-style Mulders and Scullies?



More importantly, while we are seeing how the demand for anti-establishment outsiders is subverting conventional party institutions, are we also observing the breakdown of the power of conventional media institutions?

For instance, what has changed about TV advertising this time around?

For one, it's the sui-generis-ness of the Trumpster. He's probably the only candidate ever who could reliably replace the effectiveness of a pricey TV campaign with a single, authentically thumbed, 2 a.m. hate tweet. Or retweet, for that matter.

That's a pretty stark contrast to the $40 million that Jeb's PAC spent on creating anti-Trump messages. Can you remember any of them?

Some of the Republican challengers spent tons on spots that attempted to be original or clever — but given our unrelenting 24/7 news churn, were instantly outed for containing embarrassing errors.

Marco Rubio tried to pull off a sophisticated frame-by-frame match up of Reagan’s iconic “Morning Again in America” ad from 1984. The pictures were the same, but cheaply reproduced with stock footage.

And the voiceover, rather than offering hope, surveyed the complete disaster of what the Obama years have brought us.  Not only was it a hugely depressive downer, but the spot got attention only for the mistake it opened with: a shot of sunlight on the Vancouver harbor, complete with a tugboat proudly flying the Canadian flag.

Cruz’ team also came up with a satiric, high-concept ad, showing people seated in a circle at a support group—a meeting of “Conservatives Anonymous.” It becomes clear, while showing each other compassion, that they are trying to get over their anger about being abandoned by Rubio's flip-flop on immigration.

It got points for really getting into the weeds of the issues, and using a contemporary set-up, but before it could even run, one of the actors in it, who played a glum, but reasonably attractive housewife type, who had one spoken line, was somehow identified as a porn star named Amy Lindsay.

The Cruz camp pulled the spot immediately, and Lindsay, in turn, showed up all over the airwaves during an otherwise slow news weekend saying she was a conservative Christian mother just providing for her family with her acting career, and was pissed at Cruz for overreacting.

So, whether due to stupid mistakes, the increasingly fractured media environment, or Trump the king of earned media, has the pro-forma political ad, as created by powerful consultants, officially gone the way of the Gallup Poll?

Not completely. The only ad that seemed to break through this political season was Bernie Sanders’ “America.”  Impossibly upbeat, but thrillingly sweet, it used the calming lilt of the famous Simon & Garfunkel tune (Starting with the lines “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together…”)  as a backdrop to golden cuts of Bernie shown hugging lots of kids, women, and especially people of color.  

In between, we saw Bernie in shirtsleeves walking with locals near bales of hay, and also meeting with them in coffee shops, with sped-up images of the thousands and thousands of individual $27, teeny-money donors who made the campaign possible. It ended with Sanders triumphantly speaking at the stump, spreading massive amounts of hope. Feel the goosebumps.

I can't say that any of Hillary Clinton's ads have been as memorable. The best, I think, is the little square that runs on the side of my Facebook feed that says, “I’m with her.” No voice, no name needed — just three simple words, suggesting all of what being pro-Hillary means. She gets it.

Moving forward, my feeling is that in this agitated, hyper-angry climate, Hill should take her ad cues from Bernie, and take on the high mantel of pure positivity. Her ads should show un-staged images of her, captured on the campaign trail, embracing her passionate followers — and connecting with them in a meaningful way that has yet to be conveyed. This would elevate the discourse at a time when “going negative” also seems to have little impact.

As people get more polarized, and the numbers of moderates decline, the audience of “persuadables” is also shrinking.

Oddly, PACS from both parties have created ads that put Trump's more vulgar, hostile, female-baiting statements in the mouths of plain citizens. They are awful to watch, but probably won't do much to change the minds of Trump voters.

They tend to respond that he only says these things because he's not a “real” politician, or alternately, that he's not PC — he's honest, but he doesn't mean them (the voters) when he says those negative things.

Is this the triumph of Internet culture, and all the stomach-churning, flaming bits of insults that it brings?  It's sometimes the political equivalent of Reddit and Tinder, where you vote up or down, swipe left or right.

The rest is wrestling.

Sadly, I already have PTSD about this election, and we still have six months to go.  

Anybody want to start a support group?

16 comments about "Blocking, Churning, Baiting, & Wrestling: Can We Make It Until November? ".
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  1. George Parker from Parker Consultants, May 19, 2016 at 6:59 p.m.

    Politics in general are pathetic. Politics in America, leave the rest of the world gob-smacked. I arrived here in the early 60's. I thought it was bad then. Now, I am speechless... Who me?

  2. Jane Farrell from Freelance, May 19, 2016 at 10:55 p.m.

    You are absolutely right about the direction Hillary's ads should take. The one ad that has moved me (and I'm not a Sanderse supporter) wasl the one he did to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel's "America." We need a lot of positivity to counter what will surely be one of the roughest presidential campaigns on record.

  3. Vicki Halliday from Halliday, May 19, 2016 at 10:59 p.m.

    I don't think spots, in general, are an effective way to spend campaign dollars.  Between 24/7 news and social media, most people are getting such a blast of information that any spot, which took time to shoot, edit and finish, is already old by the time it hits the air.  Sanders ad was good but I don't know that it did him any good.   Hard for me to say this because I worked on so much political stuff, but I think it's true.

    Also makes me wonder how the cola wars would have turned out if tv spots had been so ineffectual!

  4. bob hoffman from type a group, May 20, 2016 at 1:10 a.m.

    This is not the triumph of Internet culture, it is the triumph of TV culture. Do you think Mr. Trump would be a presidential candidate if The Apprentice was a webinar?

  5. Anglyn Hays from Free Lance Writer Hire Me!, May 20, 2016 at 2:57 a.m.

    Sorry but, we aren't the baby boomers writ large any more.  The baby boomers are not the largest adult demographic if everyone born after 1965 is considered as having some perspectives in comon, which might happen in the course of 50 years, lol.  If the Occupy Movement didn't catch your eye, don't worry, it isn't that big of a deal,  just money nonsense.  There aren't any big deals any more so relax.  We can more than wait for November because November is, as we say in calendrics, inevitable.  I happen to know both candidates personally, and neither are prepared for the White House.  Hahahaha, jokes on you, and I guess, on me, since I hold a worthless vote in a race among the discredited concensus candidates.  The race is 100% open to an usurper.  I say, let a popular candidate win, you know, like a democratic system or sort of.  Let's be complicating and hope for the best.  I mean, Bernie Sanders is an old man himself, so he is the most old fashioned possibilty in fact.  So we have the old, lol,  battling the older.  Imagine a bit. It might work out, sure.

  6. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, May 20, 2016 at 5:15 a.m.

    Support group.....  You thinking gun club or survivalists?  

    When I hunker down in the bunker it'll be with a copy of Four Arguments for the Elmination of TV.  Want to reread that part about the innate bias of a medium which reduces issues to ever shorter news bites.

  7. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, May 20, 2016 at 5:46 a.m.

    Is there any country on earth that represents the ideal culture or lifestyle that--if emulated--could allow us to unite globally and share in a continuing quest for discovery and understanding?

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 20, 2016 at 8:54 a.m.

    Of course, Boomers, are not as numerous as the 18-34s as they were born at a time when the total population was much smaller than it is today. Back then, however, they seemed like a tidal wave of new faces. Currently, the 18-34s constitute only one third of all adults while those aged 55+ outnumber them by three to four percentage points.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 20, 2016 at 8:56 a.m.

    To Dyann's question---perhaps North Korea? After all it's run by a millennial. Just kidding Anglyn----just kidding, he says as he ducks for cover.

  10. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, May 20, 2016 at 12:08 p.m.

    No different than 2012, it's a great time to unfollow my Facebook friends who want to share (or like) their favorite political topics. After the inauguration, I can start following them again, especially the ones who still live here.

  11. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson replied, May 20, 2016 at 12:11 p.m.

    Yes, George, the Brits are soooo much more sophisticated in their politics. Like John and Sally Bercow. John Major and Edwina Currie. George Galloway and Celebrity Big Brother. Etc and etc. It's all a circus.

  12. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 20, 2016 at 2:03 p.m.

    What I see so far from Hillary is how awful Trump is, and how much better she is than Trump. I see no positive messages from her on her platforms, how she will address disaffected middle class voters or how she can stand on her own without the counterpoint of Donald.

    If she keeps down that path, she will lose. If she doesn't see this, it shows how insulated her and her advisers are from the sentiment driving the populist campaigns of Trump and Sanders (two sides of the same coin).

  13. Anglyn Hays from Free Lance Writer Hire Me!, May 20, 2016 at 7:11 p.m.

    Hillary's generational thinkers were the uber offspring of the GI generation.  She has never needed content in her entire politicl career so she is surprised a new generation comes along that needs some information beyond Madison Avenue pundits.  Gosh, it took her this long to get questioned.  And THE DONALD is no more ready for this new world than THE HILLARY.  They are both egomaniacs who surround themselves with people who only praise their every breath and move.  Really, cult of personality should not be that hard for those born before 1965.  But if it is, just ask someone born after 1990.  I am sure they will be patient teachers, lol.

  14. Annette Foglino from Angelvine, May 20, 2016 at 7:50 p.m.

    Don't know what kind of ads anyone can develop to go against Trump. Like you said, the ones that HRC Pac produced will most likely not have any influence -- would like to know the focus group that those were tested against! Saw an interview with the producer and he swore up and down that they tested really well with the groups. Seems like a well-orchestrated social media campaign will defiitely be needed along with the lame ads. I'm not even sure how effective TV campaing ads are to begin with even though so much money is spent on them -- they are supposed to be geared toward un-decideds. A challenging mission.

  15. George Parker from Parker Consultants replied, May 21, 2016 at 8:26 a.m.

    David... At least UK elections only last a few weeks. here in the US, they go on forever.

  16. Jim English from The Met Museum, May 22, 2016 at 12:41 a.m.

    You're right,  Barbara.  It has to be more about Hillary's accomplishments. "Pure positivity" is a good plan. Neither Rubio nor Cruz gained much by trading insults with Trump.

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