Producing Politics: Inside The Exclusive Campaign World Where the Privileged Few Shape Politics for All of Us
Campaigns and the people who run them affect every aspect of American politics.
Every two years, when national elections come around, Americans are inundated with campaigns’ communications: we see political advertisements on television and online, hear speeches and more ads on the radio, get countless flyers in the mail, receive robo-calls and live calls, and may even find a canvasser knocking on our doors.
Political campaigns are a key way people are connected to politics; they are the moments in a democracy when politicians and their parties have the most incentive to communicate directly with potential voters, and when voters must make a decision about whom to support (or whether to vote at all). Campaigns’ influence goes beyond how people vote; campaigns also create a large part of the political culture through which individuals come to understand democratic politics.
To understand campaigns, then, we need to understand the people whose work builds them: the political consultants and political operatives who make their living working for parties, campaigns, and allied partisan organizations. Just as the decision-makers at Netflix, HBO, and ABC determine what kinds of entertainment to provide, these campaign professionals curate our political options. The ways they shape the system and its offerings for voters come out of their perceptions of what is politically possible, which persuasion strategies are effective, how the electorate operates, and what will make sense to and be rewarded by the rest of the political world. Politicos’ beliefs about how politics ought to work and how regular people see politics shape the decisions, strategies, and public messaging of the party leaders, presidents, legislators, and governors they advise. To make sense of a political landscape that’s often baffling to outsiders, we need to know how and why campaign professionals do what they do.
The book is based on over 70 (anonymous) interviews with campaign staff and consultants from both parties (and one independent), as well as an original database of over 2000 politicos’ careers, demographics, and backgrounds. I discuss who tends to run campaigns (the usual suspects: well-off white men), how they view their work (as a battle between teams as much as an effort to engage potential voters), and how the field is organized (it is very difficult for anyone to enter if they can’t work for little or no pay during or shortly after college).
Producing Politics was published June 14th, 2022, and can be ordered anywhere books are sold:
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