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Archive for June, 2008

Barack Obama’s campaign was being hailed as the beginning of a new era of open politics. He was letting the netroots into his campaigning organisation and many in the progressive blogosphere were ready to proclaim the beginning of a new form of open source and fully transparent government.

But the first signs of disappointment from the netroots have emerged after Obama’s support for FISA, a hot issue within the right to privacy fight, and his campaign opting out of public funding without any sort of public consultation. Tim Watts over at TOK as well summarises the conclusions from last week’s Personal Democracy Forum where you can feel a certain degree of dissapointment within the techno-political world with Obama’s not fully revolutionary campaign. Tim argues that new technology and web 2.0 have helped as campaign tools rather than as a vehicle for open source campaigning.

Here it’s why campaigning, unlike government, cannot yet be open source and how those new tools aren’t the problem, the problem is campaigners.

Campaigning is a zero-sum game. One campaigns during two to three months and people make up their minds votes for one of the candidates and the other one simply just goes home. In government however defeat can be neutralised by a win later, one gets four years to do it. In campaigning is make or break politics and that involves a high degree of strategy. Strategising involves moderation, the need to build a winning coalition. The Democratic netroots are uncompromisingly liberal and that is a great thing. But to win an election anywhere in the world one needs to appeal beyond your party base to moderate independents. There’s a clear explanation why Obama is voting for FISA, to avoid every Democrat nightmare, the ‘soft on terrorism’ tag. Most political parties’ grassroots are always more extreme than the party leadership, the reason for that is that they aren’t running for office.

Greater transparency of government is something we can hope for with an Obama presidency, greater input from citizens on government matters as well. But when it comes to campaigning where decissions have to be made fast and can be decisive to the final outcome it’s not going to happen, at least not yet. Campaign managers, even the most open source-friendly ones, with a chance to win will never give up essential decission-making powers.

Let’s get Barack Obama elected first and then monitor and demand of his government those changes we want to see. Campaign pledges and the FISA vote are important but an actual presidency is what really matters. Obama is what’s called a political premium brand, so much is expected of him that sometimes we forget he still has to win the traditional politics game as well and that involves things we might not like. But we need to keep the eye on the ball to help a Democrat get elected in November.

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Google.es

The search engine’s Spanish domain shows its support with its logo today including Fernando Torres, the author of the winning goal in yesterday’s final.

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Fortune cookie politics

What is it with American politicians making the most absurd arguments without even a blink of an eye? I keep reading this nonsense about Iraq over and over again. McCain did it the other day, yesterday it was Joe Lieberman and of course Bush is done it about a zillion times. Gentlemen, Iran is Shia, Al-Qaeda is Suni, they aren’t business partners, they oppose each other.

Moreover, why is it that US media is unable to confront the politician in the moment instead of let him make an absurd argument? they have a responsibility to their audience, you know that whole watchdog role and the provision of verifiable information. False arguments like this on Iran and Al-Qaeda simply encourage social constructions about Islam that simplify it into black or white. This is fortune cookie politics and its pretty embarrasing to see two senior US senators and a US President spreading prejudice like that and the media allowing it to happen.

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Eurobarometer and the Lisbon Treaty

Some weeks ago I argued in this blog that the rejection in Ireland of the Lisbon Treaty was the result of bad campaigning by pro-Europeans. The latest EC’s Eurobarometer seems to corroborate my argument.

According to their analysis the Irish government didn’t take the campaign too serious. The results are quite shocking:

– 52% of those that didn’t vote did so because they didn’t fully understand the issue.

– 32% of those that voted NO in the referendum did so because they didn’t understand the issue.

– When asked which campaign was more persuasive, 81% of NO voters and 57% of YES voters said the NO campaign was. In overall numbers the YES campaign was preferred by 16%, while the NO campaign was preferred by a whopping 68%.

– Finally, when asked at what point did voters made their minds up on the issue 55% of them said in the last week of the campaign against 10% who had a clear opinion when the referendum was announced. Therefore the campaigns were crucial to influence voters.

This Eurobarometer special certainly deconstructs arguments on both sides, pro and anti Europeans. Pro-Europeans that claim that Bertie Ahern’s resignation and scaremongering on the side of the NO campaign, irrational causes, were the main causes of the rejection of the Treaty should rethink their stance. And euro-sceptics who argue that the Irish population doesn’t want more integration have been proved wrong. Only 5% of those that voted NO cited their opposition to a more unified Europe, in fact most of the reasons given were related to Ireland’s influence within the EU and them, together with ignorance of the issue as the main cause, took the bulk of the NO vote.

As I’ve said before , the relationship between citizens and the EU isn’t a love affair anymore. Pro-Europeans will have to start taking seriously their campaigning if the EU is to keep up as a world player in the future.

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Thank you

Spain are European champions… I know it might seem silly to make it too dramatic, it’s just football, but… after 44 years since Franco, a vicious dictator, for Spaniards across the world it turns a page of our history. Our first democratic football title. It’s a great success. Our team has shown great determination, brilliance, projected its people’s strength… Spain in 30 years has worked itself, step by step, to a developed country, an EU country, a NATO country, a respected country. For all of us abroad, though we can’t celebrate with our fellow countrymen, we are happy, proud and just wished we could shout beyond rooftops, we are proud of our football national team and certainly proud of a country that has proven endurance beyond belief. Thank you to our national team, although we are away from home…WE ARE PROUD TO BE SPANISH! and thank you from the depth of our hearts to all those Britons that have share our enthusiasm, our illusion and our passion to see Spain all the way through.

P.S.: Antonio Puerta, we remember you… RIP.

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Book review: Crashing the gate

Exam time and job-hunting has certainly slowed down my free reading time, interesting books are piling up on my shelf without me having much time to read them. But today I finally finished a short but very exciting book, Crashing the gate: netroots, grassroots, and the rise of people-powered politics. The book is written by leading US bloggers Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, and Jerome Armstrong, founder of MYDD.

Lee Drutman from the LA Times has probably described the book in the best concise way, ‘power to the people with a political takeover plan’. That’s exactly what this book is, not wishful thinking from Washington outsiders but a detailed road map for a re-energised Democratic Party.

Like several books to emerge after Bush’s reelection in 2004, this one starts analysing the causes of the defeat. But unlike other books on the same topic, thinking here of Carville and Begala’s Take it back, Moulitsas and Armstrong focus not on campaign errors but rather in the state of the organic structure of the party, from ideas-generation to candidate selection. Moreover, they do this not out of isolated reflection but rather by going out there and talking to activists across the US to hear their views.

Once the analysis is done with scientific precission, not a single issue left untouched, the authors move to present their solutions. And here is where the book becomes extremely inspirational. They advocate for mass mobilisation from the base, both online and offline, to kick-start the party. From campaign financing to a 50 states battle plan the authors are certain of the need to involve party activists throughout the process. This is not just abstractly put, they give specific examples of actual root-generated change, like Dean’s election as DNC chairman. Moulitsas and Armstrong argue for the creation of a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy (VLFW) based on the creation of a strong network of progressive institutions across America, from think tanks to MoveOn.org, to create a party firmly rooted on both ideas and human capital.

This book isn’t your typical campaign book. It doesn’t focus on campaign detail like message development or strategy. It’s a party-building manual and that makes it extremely relevant to many European left-wing political parties, Labour and PSOE among others, that lost their momentum in the late 2000s. The biggest lesson to get out of this book is that elections aren’t just won by a good campaign but rather that healthy and powerful foundations are needed for a party to be electorally competitive. While conventional wisdom says that campaigns win elections, ‘Crashing the gate’ tells us that politics is a long-term endurance context and that a win today can become the seed of defeat in the future.

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Totally Forgesian

Seems like my subscription to Total Politics, the GQ of politics according to publisher Iain Dale, has started to pay off. Forgesian Thinking has made it to the magazine’s political blog directory under left wing blogs (guess that tag defines it better than Labour at the moment).

Today Total Politics, tomorrow Gordon Brown’s RSS feed!

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