A: We wanted to help Americans understand campaigns in the 21st century from the inside and we wanted to help people involved in populist or participatory campaigns win their elections. Some campaign techniques haven’t changed since Cicero or Abraham Lincoln were elected, others are radically different. There aren’t any good books about the 21st century campaigns and their challenges to democracy so we wrote “Winning Elections in the 21st Century.”
Q: How have your own political views changed since writing this book, or have they?
A: We haven’t changed our personal political philosophies but we have come to understand the ways in which campaigns are run today in much greater depth. We believe that fundamental reforms like public financing have to be made if our democracy is to endure.
Q: What are some campaigning strategies and techniques that the Everyman can learn to better assess candidates’ readiness to hold office?
A: It is likely that any candidate that can’t master the techniques of running a modern election won’t be effective in running a modern government either. But the candidate with the most money is not necessarily the best candidate and in our book we show how candidates with less money can still get their message to the voters and win. In “Winning Elections in the 21st Century,“ we show “how the sausage is made” and demystify the process so voters can make real choices on the merits of the candidates.
Q: Are there any aspects of the information age that are changing the way politicians campaign and Americans vote?
A: Voter analytics and social media have fundamentally altered how campaigns are run. They can enhance getting information about the candidates and the issues to the voters and can help campaigns find supporters that might otherwise have been bypassed. On the other hand, these same tools can be used to create a false candidate persona and fake stands on issues that only pander to small groups through “narrowcasting” and micro-targeting.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from Winning Elections in the 21st Century?
A: We need to use the tools we provide in “Winning Elections in the 21st Century“ to elect the best possible candidates to public office and we need to reform our political system to insure our democracy continues. Young people, especially should know it is not impossible to elect good candidates, and getting involved in their campaigns is important and worthwhile.
–Dick Simpson and Betty O’Shaughnessy are the authors of “Winning Elections in the 21st Century.”