The Ways Modern Campaign Tactics Divide Us

Big changes that have made bad matters worse for voters

Photo by lucia on Unsplash

How Our Political System Divides Us

Steenbergh pointed to a few basic facts in those statements that politicians need to internalize. First is that you stick by your friends. Some call the people you relied upon to help get elected your “supporters,” or your “base.” The premise is reminiscent of another famous political saying popularized by former President Ronald Reagan, “dance with the one that brung you.”

Two Reasons Campaigns Exist

When people argue for turning out your supporters, visions appear of people driving voters to the polls, going door-to-door to remind people to vote, and sending out absentee voter ballot applications. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. For some time now, political scientists have known why people show up at the polls: they are convinced there is a reason to vote. That’s why campaigns hold big rallies in which candidates offer up “red meat” to their supporters. The goal is to inflame the passions of their supporters as motivation to go out and vote on election day.

The Medium Matters

The biggest change in the last two elections has been in how these messages are delivered to voters. In the past, candidates had to rely upon television ads to reach voters who were generally uninvolved in politics. Campaigns would buy ads that would be seen by huge swaths of the voting public just to get a negative message to some of the other candidate’s supporters.

What the Media Doesn’t Understand

Unfortunately, the lack of understanding of the political landscape among most journalists has paved the way for erroneous coverage of the current campaigns. This misrepresentation of our political process diverts Democrats’ and Republicans’ attention from addressing this division.

What We Can Do About It

First, make it easier to vote. Australia, Belgium, and a few other countries legally mandate it, resulting in shockingly high voter turnout, nearly 92 percent in Australia’s last election. If everyone turns out, the campaigns will have to work to convince the non-committed voters to support their position. In the United States, we don’t need laws requiring turnout, but we could sure stand to make it easier to vote. The United States is one of the countries that make it most difficult to vote anywhere in the world. Addressing some of these barriers would have a significant impact.

Mike is an Assistant Professor of Management for Legal and Ethical Studies at Oakland U. Mike combines his scholarship with practical experience in politics.

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