There's a new game in town and it's threatens to change the political landscape for the worst.
Washington State bloggers have been yelling about a new conservative ploy: Don’t Make My Mistake!; New Right Wing “Dirty Tricks” Campaign Tactic Being Tested in Washington State; They call it “going stealth:” Stealth Candidate Bails on GOP to Win But Look at the Company She Keeps.
In King County (Seattle and environs), wealthy conservatives funded a county charter amendment making races nonpartisan. They then immediately ran a triple R (Religious Right Republican), a local former TV anchor named Susan Hutchison, under the nonpartisan label. With the Republican brand out of favor, and progressives sick of partisan insanity, we may expect this tactic to spring up across the country in areas with liberal majorities.
We should take what is happening in Washington as lesson to be studied. Hutchison emphatically repeated the “nonpartisan” and “moderate” mantras, and despite evidence to the contrary, the mainstream media echoed. She fended off questions about conservative donations, associations, and positions. She actually lied on occasion. Copyright claims were used to suppressunsavory video footage. Ironically, when liberal bloggers or her opponent’s campaign tried to raise a stink, they were accused by not only her campaign but other liberal bloggersas being anti-religious, acrimonious, and excessively partisan. That is the beauty of the whole ploy from a right wing standpoint.
This is a campaign strategy that depends on absence of information. That means we need to get it out there against all odds. And that means we need to invest in and leverage new media and social networks more than ever.
There is a natural differentiation between conservative and progressive movements that has long been noted historically. To wit, conservatives have the advantage of money and tight organization, progressives have the advantage of large numbers and a healthy bit of chaos (or one might say "diversity"). Whatever term one chooses to use to describe those progressive qualities they are a natural fit for new media and guerrilla marketing campaigns. We need to leverage our strengths.
Susan Hutchison mobilized a conservative power and funding base which allowed her to mimic new media marketing with a slick and expensive jib-jab style marketing campaign. They co-opted the look and feel, but actual renegade media is something that we are better at – if the left will only wake up and fund it!
The proper response to a Susan Hutchison campaign should have been two fold. First, taking her seriously from the get go. In an age where a person as vacuous as Sarah Palin can become a serious VP candidate Sarah Hutchison should have been seen as the threat she is early on. Secondly, the focus should have been on making use of new media as pillar of the campaign. Low budget renegade videos sprang up (Robber Barons and Dinosaurs, http://www.liveleak.com/... and Elephants), in the last two weeks of the campaign, but they may be too late.
If energy and resources had been allocated to this arena early on Hutchison’s opponent, Dow Constantine might be sailing into a comfortable lead rather than fighting a very expensive endgame. Instead the race which may conclude with a new King County Executive who, in a progressive democratic county, will have a political point of view that is more appropriate for Wasilla Alaska. That would be a lesson to us all.