Be on the Lookout: Politicians Never Stop Campaigning
Elections & Politics Policy Brief #110 | By: Steve Piazza | November 21, 2023
Photo taken from: democraticaudit.com
During the most recent Republican Presidential Debate, candidates made a hard sale expressing their unconditional support of Israel in its conflict with Hamas. In their own fashion, each called for the complete annihilation of Hamas while collectively promoting Republican Party ideological unity.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration, short of calling for a cease-fire, instead preferred leaning into an appeal for a humanitarian pause. Some feel Biden was hoping to tread lightly in order to win over Democrats demanding Israel to stop attacking innocent citizens in Gaza.
On either side of the aisle (WHAT DOES THAT PHRASE MEAN?), it’s clear they’re sending a message of concern about bloodshed. But it’s also understood that both sides aren’t taking any chances of being labeled anti-Semitic which could lead to serious losses at the ballot box.
A tenuous borderland exists between talk of problem solving and mere campaign strategies since the pursuit and/or maintenance of power cannot easily be separated out. In other words, anytime a political figure publicly says or does anything, it cannot be forgotten that it is, at its root, an attempt to secure a vote.
When the Israeli Office of Foreign Affairs released a video that at first appeared as a kids ad for rainbows and unicorns but then quickly grew dark with the tragic statistics of the October 7 Hamas attack, the Likud Party may have indirectly been attempting to increase it’s recently won slight majority in the Knesset. That video has now been removed, but it’s indicative how governments with unlimited resources can easily and swiftly hawk messages to its populace, and beyond, in order to serve both its immediate and long term goals.
That the campaigning never stops certainly applies to how the well endowed parties in the U.S. allow politicians to operate. It’s most apparent in traditional, slick campaign ads over TV and radio, often sounding ominous and urgent regarding a possible takeover by dark forces of opponents.
This type of approach is no accident. Campaigns employ world class advertising agencies, often outside mainstream, to pull out all the stops when it comes to the art of persuasion. After all, appealing to emotions like fear and doom are a very popular, and effective, method.
But placing traditional campaign advertising aside, politicians are forever on the trail. It’s important to remember this during interviews, hearings, or even statements made before boarding a helicopter. Indeed, campaigning comes in all shapes and sizes, including unconventional messagings since suggestive influence is proven more effective than anything blatant.
President Biden’s Oval Office informational address to the nation regarding the White House support of Israel can also be viewed as indirect campaign pitch. Not only could it help him get a leg up on other candidates, it can also be viewed as an opportunity to counter Republican opposition to combining Ukraine and Israel aid.
Candidates themselves can also campaign without even being present. One example of this is Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s recent photo op. His handshake with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does send a message of U.S. support, but it also provides concrete evidence of Biden’s foreign policy involvement, something that will be useful for the President on the campaign trail.
What gets said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives matters for legislation, but it’s also an opportunity to sell extreme ideology to voters. Republican speakers in support of Missouri Democrat Rashida Tlaib’s censure referenced the holocaust and the destruction of Israel, two emotionally incendiary issues that give fire to their 2024 primary campaigns.
Consider the chest pounding endorsements during the Republican debates that sounded more like a commercial for a household product. The use of phrases like “finish the job once and for all,” “wipe them off the map,” and “stone cold dead.” was akin to conditioning people to remember when it comes time to vote who will get the job done.
Candidates’ responses to events in Israel will most likely steal much of the focus during the election. But what must be taken into consideration is the separation of what’s really happening on the ground and what comes from the mouth of the candidates.
It will be important to observe how less traditional information sources, whether via social media, dissent channels, or town halls, line up with the candidates’ marketing as they follow their paths. More than ever, it’s up to citizens to know campaign rhetoric when they see it, particularly when it’s not during a sensationalized sixty second T.V. spot.
- Here is an article from The Fulcrum, a pro Democracy site, which examines political advertising: https://thefulcrum.us/learning-to-recognize-political-rhetoric
- In the context of Hannah Arendt’s writing, this article reflects the problems related to truth in politics: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/hannah-arendt-and-politics-truth/
- Open Secrets is a resource to help track how money is spent during campaigns: https://www.opensecrets.org/