Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Permanent Campaign

I've been falling down on blogging duties for the past few days because I've had some writing deadlines. I did, however, want to make mention of Mark Barabak's LA Times article from Monday on the "permanent campaign." Here's the nut graph(s):

The permanent campaign — a never-ending cycle of fundraising, polling and candidate positioning — has been a growing part of American politics for a generation, even before the term was popularized in a 1980 book of that title by journalist Sidney Blumenthal.

But those immersed in the election system — candidates, fundraisers, campaign consultants, issue advocates — say that in just the past few years the pace has grown even more relentless, to a point where the notion of a political "off-season" seems every bit as quaint as straw boaters and torchlight parades.
The article focuses primarily on the most obvious sense of the term 'permanent campaign' - that elected officials are constantly looking ahead to the next election (as are potential challengers). There's another sense of the term that the article mentions but doesn't spend a lot of time on; namely, that the line between campaigning for office and campaigning to govern has been erased. That is, in order to govern successfully, one has to employ the tactics of an election campaign (e.g., polling, messaging, etc.). This phenomenon has many causes and a number of consequences (none of which are good). If you want to understand it, Barabak's article is a good place to start.


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