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The most repudiated idea this election cycle is that money can buy quality product.

Romney’s loss last week has opened a peek into the Republican mentality and offered a great study of how they think and operate. Republicans approach elections like a business transaction. Their party operatives and their billionaire donors outsourced the campaign to vendors (Super PACs, unscrupulous pollsters). Donors with money met smooth-talking consultants with promises and sealed their own fate.

The preferred business of most of Romney’s donors is buying other businesses, thus their electoral strategy involved buying a ready business – Conservative Super PACs. But both parties of the transaction fell victims to transactional negligence of the same origin – the mistaken belief about the real state of race. Such belief was borne out of two conservative axioms: 1) Obama is an unmitigated disaster that must be rid of; and 2) Obama’s demise is imminent. The first premise pressed donors to open their wallets; the second premise allowed the vendors to sit back, blanket airwaves with TV ads and ignore to do the job that really matters – build the ground game. The Super PACs were disincentivized to invest in the ground game by those very donors who were willing to write huge checks with no strings attached. Both sides of the electoral transaction were all too happy to brush aside this obvious conflict of interest. Sheldon Adelson and other big donors put their best business instincts aside and succumbed to the idea that big money will always buy quality. That by paying more you’re assured to fly private. But what they got instead is a bunch of charlatans selling them coach seats for the price of a ride in a private jet. It’s stunning but also ironic that a casino business mogul, a guy who strips others of their cash for a living, was played in such obvious manner and by his own team.

Republican GOTV turned out to be a joke. Turns out you can throw hundreds of millions of dollars at election and still lose it. You can carpet bomb the enemy – a preferred conservative way of combat – but lose the election because what you need is the combination of pointed drone attacks focused on individual neighborhoods and close combat. Business executives failed to realize that in a political campaign, different human factors are at play and economics is not a deciding factor: people who will do a better job of knocking on doors and running a phone bank are those who would still do it for free, simply because they would make an extra effort to reach a household. But perhaps a non-economic metric is alien to the party of business, in a world where no one does anything for free. For a party that is bent on measuring everything through an economic lens perhaps it was a gross miscalculation, a case of political malpractice. The conservative volunteers’ enthusiasm was there, but the party operatives never bothered to harness it, preferring to spend the money on TV ads instead. If you’re a Romney’s ground game organizer being drowned in unlimited cash flowing your way every month at some point you just stop trying. Instead of hiring people to walk neighborhoods you begin to look after yourself, as a good Ayn Rand conservative should. No matter the outcome, you will get a cushy job at a think tank.

Obama’s campaign, by contrast, approached the election the way one builds a small business – years of painstaking, step-by-step, granular work. It’s the ultimate mom-and-pop business, a thousand of local establishments run by locals and for the benefit of locals. As with any small business, the owners are so invested in their creation that they are often willing to go without paycheck just for the sake of growing it. That’s the essential difference between the campaigns: Obama nurtured his base individually and over a long period of time; Republicans have tried a blanket, expensive, one-size fits all approach and failed.

In essence there was a great dichotomy between much praised Republican business sense and their amateurish way of electoral deal making, their delusional and naïve tactic of selecting their consultants and merchants. What prudent business leader would spend millions of dollars on people who tell him what he wants to hear and on pollsters that only show him that he’s ahead? And these are the guys who, touting their managerial skills, were planning to show us all how to run the country?

If Romney won with this kind of campaign, this method of running things would have been validated. But would that make that alternative reality, through such electoral endorsement, real? Would that enable the new Romney administration to base their future policy decisions on the way they believe things are, not the way things really are? What a scary thought.

Originally posted to KatyaG on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 11:21 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The GOP has fallen into the hands (12+ / 0-)

    of the "professional election losers" that had sucked our blood from 2000-2006 - the bullshit artists who sell slogans and media-speak gibberish to people with no vision.  And it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch: Watching thieves get conned is a beautiful thing.

    "They fear this man. They know he will see farther than they, and he will bind them with ancient logics." -The stoner guy in The Cabin in the Woods

    by Troubadour on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 11:38:48 AM PST

  •  Negative ads may work to a point... (8+ / 0-)

    ...but after a while you get annoyed, and never hear any good things about the candidate talking smack about the other candidate. Obama bad, Romney good, but why is Romney good? Just because he's rich? Or white? Or Romney? They never got into that.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 11:55:11 AM PST

  •  Effective volunteers (12+ / 0-)

    How can you have effective volunteers if they are motivated by disinformation and hate?  They may be enthusiastic, but they won't be convincing to undecided voters.

    •  ...and that's just it. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      scott5js, TheDuckManCometh

      I think a lot of these people lived in a bubble that convinced them Obama Derangement Syndrome can be spread to reasonable people, and honestly expected it to sweep the country by Election Day 2012.  That's why they called the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare,"  because they thought everyone would hate it if his face was affixed to it like a sticker to a middle school notebook.

      Didn't quite work out that way, obviously.  So when the ODS patients are the ones doing GOTV, what impact do you think that'll have on undecideds?  

      “Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it” --the GOP philosophy to governing as described by Paul Krugman

      by dwayne on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:15:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The more fully informed voters are, (8+ / 0-)

    the better choices they make. I would venture to guess that most Republican voters are only very partially informed. That they are not well or widely read, and that the sources of information upon which they rely can offer only a very limited, and narrow perspective.

    Most Republicans prefer it that way - they don't want to know any more than they need to know in order to protect their own beliefs, their own ways of life, and their own tribal identities.

    But knowledge is contagious. It spreads by word of mouth and by rubbing up against other people, other races and cultures, other ways of seeing the world. The benighted souls across the isle from us are fighting a losing battle, a rearguard action. No matter how much money they have, and no matter how cleverly they craft their propaganda, no matter how many roadblocks they throw up, they cannot stop the spread of knowledge.

    We know. They don't. That's the bottom line.

    "The pessimists may be right in the end but an optimist has a better time getting there" -- Samuel Clemons

    by native on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 08:24:43 PM PST

  •  In other words (5+ / 0-)

    The Republican effort was centrally planned and built around mobilizing vast resources without regard for individuals, and suppressing bad news.

    Like the Soviet Union.

    •  Indeed, in retrospect, it looks like much of the (0+ / 0-)

      antagonism towards the Soviets was driven by envy. They had set up a godless totalitarian system in a contest with the god-based one. Now that the totalitarian system of the Soviets has collapsed, our totalitarians are experimenting with setting the secular nation as the supreme motivation and the god-fearers are competing.

      We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:01:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "The idea is all it takes." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yoshimi

    That was the operating principle of Bush/Cheney, but the slogan actually comes from an ExxonMobil ad. It expresses the belief that ideas, what people get into their heads, drive reality. It is on that basis that Dubya was defined as an idealist by the ideologues of his party. In a sense, they expect to replicate "the word made flesh." God said the word and the world was created. Then He made man and man can do it, too. One just has to think it and that will be reality. That what the human brain comes up with is not necessarily connected to reality does not occur to the idealist. If he doesn't see it, it doesn't exist.
    The "best" example is perhaps Iraq. It did not occur to Dubya that self-determination might exist in the deserts of that God-forsaken country (note the metaphor), so bringing democracy seemed entirely plausible. "The idea is all it takes." someone else needs to do the work, but that is not the idealist's concern.
    American business has largely been a matter of middlemen taking possession of free good from the various political jurisdictions and taking them to market to sell at a profit. It is the model of enterprise introduced by the explorers and followed by the traders and trappers and tappers and exporters. It was the same model which promoted the importation of free labor from various continents. American enterprise was always mainly composed of a commercial class, middlemen who profit by moving things around. The commercial class, currently represented by the chamber of commerce, has never been about transformation or production. Free goods to market is their ideal and the various political jurisdictions were set up to satisfy their desires/demands. Let's not forget that even our national highway system had to be promoted as necessary to defend and protect the territory from an invasive force that might seek to exploit and export American natural resources as we had exploited the resources of other continents. American business was never primarily about transformation and creation. American business exploits and exports. They are the ex-men. Skilled craftsmen we import from other countries. Always have. Nowadays we import them as PhDs.

    When US business schools, like Harvard, turned from accounting to personnel management, they were just peofessionalizing what had always been the main focus, moving things around. Manipulating people as the engine of enterprise is entirely consistent. US production has always been a coercive, rather than a creative force. Perhaps the rather arbitrary division of the economy by the theorists into production and consumption left the commercial class in limbo entirely by chance. A third factor, the middleman, simply didn't fit into the paradigm. That the resulting models are all wrong may be entirely accidental.
    It all depends on the preconceived notions at the start. If creation is an automatic consequence, then there is no reason to account for it. And, if that is the case, then "creative destruction" is actually a novel insight into how creation might be prompted, rather than let it just magically occur.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 03:31:55 AM PST

  •  American Crossroads targeted their donors (0+ / 0-)

    with their ads. Not the voters. Surely not voters with doubts about both campaigns.

    This was a crazy-bad election for them to lose. They had a "free" 35% of the electorate without raising a pinkie:

    -- The standard 15% of the electorate that vote GOP as single-issue anti-abortion no-brainers no matter what.

    -- The additional 20% of the electorate that wouldn't vote for a Black if the alternative was a 15-foot long worm.

    (I'm thinking of Rick Scott. He coils himself into that business suit quite nicely for a worm.)

    All they could get beyond that was 12% from spending a couple billion dollars -- less the 8% in fees.

    In the western states we were running poaching projects. No way to resist targeted these A.C. ads. You can find the ads at the American Crossroads channel on YouTube. They're pitiful -- asking to be turned on their heads.

    There's also gift-of-god / pot-of-gold self-destruction from mindless-GOPer candidates. The single worst example:

    That's would-be Super Lobbyist and former sitting Representative Rick Berg (R-ND) eviscerating himself politically by bragging about his role sneaking 30,000 domestic surveillance  drones into an FAA bill. Even without a Libertarian Senate candidate in ND to draw off votes:

    Hello, Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) !!
    And 55 Senators in the Democratic caucus. Rick Berg's the one and only GOPer dumber than Rove during the 2012 cycle. Took one helluvan effort to beat out Lover Boy.
  •  Precise Voter Targeting (0+ / 0-)

    On MSNBC one night shortly after the election, there was a gentleman (not one of the well known regulars) who described in concise detail how the Obama campaign did its precise voter targeting. The campaign focused on 4 voter groups in selected counties in the 9 swing states:

    College educated white women
    Young voters
    African Americans
    Hispanics

    Win those groups (or at least defy expectations) in those selected counties in the 9 swings states and you win the election.

    Bingo.

    As far as all the ads, I'd like to get the following poll:
    1. How many households have DVRs?
    2. Of those who answered Yes to #1, how many actually watched the ads?

    I watched almost zero, regardless of candidate.

  •  Excellent book "Drive" by Daniel Pink outlines (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dhavo, annan

    the real sources of motivation - and guess what?  It is sure as heck not money.  If it were, Encarta would be the encyclopedia of the masses, not Wikipedia.  Remind me again, how's that Encarta project working our for you, Microsoft?

    Republicans, in fact most business people, just don't get it.  Hence the little "Reward and Recognition" programs that everybody hates.  They are far more likely to sow dissent and envy.

    True motivation comes from, according to Pink, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  Somewhat akin to Maslow's hierarchy, he is talking about this these as drivers once a basic level of needs are met (food, clothing, shelter).  The  developers of OFA ground teams totally got this - gave people the knowledge and tools they needed (Mastery), gave them the freedom to get out and do what needed to be done (Autonomy), and of course, we all know where the Purpose came from!

    Of course, when we talk about the obscene amounts of money sent to Rove and his ilk it certainly looks as though they are solely driven by money.  I think for them it is a scorecard, but what really drives them is they feel like Masters of the Universe (Mastery).

    "I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it." Terry Pratchett

    by kiwiheart on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 04:29:19 AM PST

  •  They won't make the same mistake again... (4+ / 0-)

    They will deodorize the awful platform and Luntz-ify the hell out of the cold authoritarian language and Pubbie preciect will be crawling out from under every dog pile and cow pie in 2014 and 2016.

    GOTV efforts must remain a 50 state drive.  A main focus and  funded properly.

    President Obama has won, the Senate is in Democratic hands, and America now has to recover from the bitter divide that only the Republicans wanted. Hope for today, tomorrow and the future! Let's get to it!

    by boilerman10 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 05:41:33 AM PST

    •  Just about identical to my analysis right below. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      boilerman10

      "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

      by shmuelman on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:26:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  They will, most definitely, do the same thing (0+ / 0-)

      again, because they are creatures of habit. But, it might not be a mistake, because Democrats may well have changed tactics, as they apparently did in 2010.
      The instinct-driven base cannot be relied on to do their own thing, because they don't know how. Instinct-driven people have to be directed.
      It's my guess that such people are the result of some pre- or peri-natal insult, such as pill popping or bad nutrition or alcohol consumption in less than moderate, but not excessive amounts. Or, it may just be minimal health care during the birth process.  If so, then better health care will reduce the number of self-centered, clueless humans we produce.
      Consider Rove and Gingrich and even Scott Brown.  They all share a stressed pre-natal environment.  So, for that matter, does Willard.  Willard was not supposed to have been conceived and his delivery was "difficult" and, after some delay, surgical.
      We used to think that newborns have no brain function, can't even see. Now we know they are sensitive to sound in utero. What if the anxiety over premature termination is actually related to a deep memory of having almost died while being born? What if the insult associated with a "difficult" birth affects the sense of time to the point where time "stands still" and all experience occurs in an ineffable present?
      The perception of time as a sequence of events has always  been critical to civilization. All major civilizations have invented calendars.  But, once a calendar exists, it's not necessary for everyone in the society to be aware of it. Every society worth its salt has also invented routines to keep the population on time, so to speak. Islam calls people to pray six times a day.  So did the Medieval cloisters. And the factory whistle made sure people came to work on time. Today, people no longer wear watches because they have phones to tell what time it is.

      We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 10:25:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have a partial disagreement with this analysis (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scott5js

    First, here's where I agree. No matter how much money you raise, you can still miss the point and blow it with the electorate. But here's where I primarily disagree:
    1) The Obama campaign raised a $billion I believe, so let's not discount the vast importance of vast amounts of money in this election.
    2) Romney was a flawed and odious candidate. An obviously and cluelessly elite asshole. The fact he made it as far as he did, a totally unprincipled man who would not reveal his finances, garnering dislike/hate by the other Republican players (see Chris Christie) started him out in a deep hole.
    3) On the other hand, Obama is an amazing politician, and we may not be so lucky in the future. A lesser candidate, like John Kerry who, head-to-head, may not have been able to beat Romney.
    4) The messaging of the Republicans is so flawed, undemocratic, and counter to a vast demographic, it defies any grassroots ground game. I mean, who can go to a college campus and say "Paul Ryan promises to take away your reproductive rights." Or hit the inner city and say "Romney has a plan for Rugged Individualism for you."
    4) Democratic Party consultants, James Carville types who ran Hillary's primary campaign and were flying from the big Bill Clinton wins, were pitching that 50,000 swing voters decide elections. They had Hillary triangulate her way through her campaign and run on "inevitability" (Hey - it worked for Margaret Thatcher). They had a zero state strategy, and felt it was only important to contest a few dozen House seats. (Someone may want to challenge my analysis). This was a total loser against Bush and lost the Congress to us, and why Hillary lost to Obama. Only the 50 state strategy saved the party. Contest everything. It took more than 8 years for the Dems to learn.
    5) Don't count on this much stupidity in the future from the Republicans. Don't take changing demographics for granted. Their message will change. They will crucify tea party Senate candidates running on an anti-vagina platform. They will spit polish their image.

    "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

    by shmuelman on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:25:37 AM PST

    •  One last comment and a prediction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      scott5js, TheDuckManCometh

      The Republicans will go State's Rights. They will pitch a total abortion ban in Mississippi and reproductive rights in Massachusetts (decided by the state). They will come up with state run "empowerment programs." They will attempt to lull everyone to sleep. They will recover from good-ole-boy George Bush and the alarm that goes off with folksy bullshit. They will recover from "common sense" candidates like Palin. I mean, how else did Romney get to where he is? They will run on competency and resurrect "compassionate conservatism,"  albeit under a new name.
      Only a concerted and permanent effort will remove these fascists from our government.

      "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

      by shmuelman on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:34:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In the bad old days, the public had only (0+ / 0-)

    establishment sources of information. Newspapers, TV, radio. But times have changed. For a huge number of people, the internet is now a prime source of information in one way or another.

    Slogans and sound bites are less effective now. The voter has become more sophisticated, more informed, and less likely to be misled by the political tactics of the past. More and more voters are becoming aware of the "dog whistle" style of campaigning, and rejecting it. The American electorate is getting smarter.

    Well, that's my hope, anyway.

    I spent only 13 minutes at the polling place. I got off Scott free. -7.25, -6.21

    by Tim DeLaney on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 07:35:58 AM PST

  •  I blame the modern MBA philosophy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annan

    What happened with the Romney campaign isn't too different than what happened to Enron and the whole banking industry.

    I have a friend who was an aeronautical engineer (a big number guy) who went back to school to get his MBA at a prestigious university and was constantly frustrated by the philosophy taught there.

    The philosophy as he explained it was "the perception of performance."  If the business community perceives that you are performing well that gives you opportunites for growth.

    See Mitt's polling.  They assumed that if the polling was good, they would have the momentum going into the election.  That is fine if the polling is accurate but it wasn't.

  •  I don't think we should be too smug (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TheDuckManCometh

    Sure, the conservatives made hundreds of millions of mistakes, but they can afford to hire some really smart people and marketing companies to figure out how to do it better next time.  

    If they had deployed their cash more effectively we'd now have a Republican Senate, and even more batshit House, and President Moneybags, and me moving to Australia.  

    I think that unless we manage to get at least some real restrictions on, if not outright repeal of Citizen's United before 2014 we very well may lose the Senate and lose ground in the House, which will prevent any changes to Citizen's United ever, and probably lose us the 2016 Presidency, and every one thereafter.

    Atheism is a religion like Abstinence is a sexual position. - Bill Maher, 2/3/2012

    by sleipner on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:43:53 AM PST

  •  what winning looks like (0+ / 0-)

    yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 10:32:11 AM PST

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