The election-industrial complex is alive and well, as anyone can see by the amount of propaganda bombarding us through the media. The assumption is that votes can be bought if a candidate can throw enough commercials at the public. Commercials suck up money the way tornadoes suck up bathtubs and to target the message correctly, it takes consultants.
Not surprising, becoming a consultant is the fastest growing segment in the job market. The attraction is understandable: high fees and low accountability. In an election year, think of them as Robin Hoods. In the case of super pacs, they take from the rich who know little about campaigns and pocket large sums for themselves before spending a dime on the candidate.
Is the expense worth the results? Not according to researchers. Television promotions, where most of the money goes, do little to change attitudes Nonetheless, commercials are a gravy train for the consultant. As one admitted, it’s “like living under the golden arches—no need to talk to candidates, no need to talk to staff, just put up a bunch of TV ads, sit back and let the money roll in.” (“Down The Tube,” by Andrew Cockburn, Harper’s, April 2016, pg. 64.) For these experts, it’s a win/win situation. They collect if the candidate wins; they collect if the candidate loses. And when there’s a loss, the consultant is free to sell his or her voter registration lists over and over again for a considerable price to candidates still in a race.
The sad truth is that few voters get to the polls in a presidential election in this country. A woeful 57.5% voted in 2012, among the lowest turn outs in the world. (Ibid pg 66.) To get people out to vote takes more than an ad campaign. It takes a ground campaign. That’s when the candidate and/or volunteers knock on doors. It’s called canvassing a neighborhood. Talking to a person face to face is “infinitely more cost effective than the traditional media heavy approach.” (Ibid pg. 66.)
I know this to be true. About mid way through my first term in public office, voters in my district were furious about a rise in their property taxes. I didn’t choose to call a meeting where few would come. I didn’t call a press conference. The issue was too complex for a sound bite. I decided to knock on doors for two hours each evening until I got the word out.
A couple of years later, when my detractors fielded an opponent to run against me, I didn’t hire a consultant. I was back on door steps and happy to discover my constituents remembered me. On election night, I won handily. All it cost was time and a little shoe leather.