The caucuses last week in Iowa and the presidential primary next Tuesday in New Hampshire will affect Utah — beyond just the selection of candidates. As political hacks, we are compelled to discuss the wacky world of presidential politics.
National pundits are saying that the 2016 election is breaking traditions and the commonly accepted rules of elections. Beyond just the rise of Donald Trumpand Bernie Sanders, what are revolutionary activities and developments that are occurring?
Pignanelli:"Technology is a strange thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand and stabs you in the back with the other." — Carrie Snow
The national space program spawned more than just satellites and landings on the moon. America's efforts to conquer the great beyond advanced technology, satellites, and numerous everyday products (i.e. Tang, safety stripes on roads, freeze-dried foods, etc.)
Similarly, presidential campaigns launched or enhanced activities once new, but that we now take for granted (i.e. polling, consumer profiling, etc.) So the behind-the-scenes exertions in Iowa, and those likely to occur in the following primary contests -are HUUUUGE! (the Trumpism de jour). Although the media attention has focused on non-mainstream candidates, the real story is the success of new approaches and the failure of traditional outreach to voters.
Ted Cruz has more than just great field operations; he utilizes the most advanced technology in the history of electioneering. His use of data mining, thorough micro-targeting, and intense analytics is unprecedented. More than anything else, this explains his victory and defense against the Trump onslaught in Iowa.
Conversely, the traditional television carpet bombing used by the Super PACs paid no dividends to the candidates and obviously did nothing to harm rising star Marco Rubio. Trump’s inexpensive tweets had more effect than the commercials.
Webb: Whatever technology and targeting techniques are used, candidates must still tap into aspirations, fears and attitudes of voters. In this regard, the current anti-establishment fervor is really nothing new. Human nature remains the same over decades and centuries. Voter behavior follows familiar patterns in response to economic conditions, world affairs and government competency. Keen observers from the Greek philosophers and Shakespeare to modern historians have written about the same political intrigue and rebellion against the establishment we're seeing today. Far greater upheaval has occurred countless times in many countries. So what we’re seeing today isn’t unprecedented, and eventually we’ll see a return to normalcy.
What are the impacts of 2016 political trends on Utah politics and possibly the private sector?
Pignanelli: Our state is technology savvy, so we will be poked and prodded by data mining and profiling in future elections. The geographical distribution of Utahns, combined with our Internet connectivity, can easily drive the creative engines for political operatives.
Where Utahns and other Americans will truly experience this revolution is how products are marketed to us. The Cruz campaign demonstrated how to create brand identification and loyalty. Increasingly, the messaging we receive to influence shopping habits will be selective and dictated by complex algorithms and caches of data.
Webb: Advanced technology is driving a wrenching societal transformation, and the effects are reflected in the presidential campaign. I grew up in west Orem in the ‘50s and ‘60s. For many decades, a young man could graduate from high school, get a secure blue-collar job at Geneva Steel, get married, buy a modest house, raise a family, eventually buy a fishing boat and a truck and camper for hunting trips, and end up with a decent retirement.
Those days are obviously long gone. People who are not prepared for the high-tech, quick-changing, interconnected, mobile global economy are working at McDonald’s and are left out of today’s economy. Pretty soon, robots will take their jobs at McDonald's. So there are a lot of angry, disaffected folks. Utah is doing better than most states, but the crucial lesson is that if we don’t want populist, rabble-raising politicians to lead a country of angry people (like Argentina), we had better provide great education so our young people can have good jobs and good quality of life.
How do these factors benefit or disadvantage the new petition process for a party's nomination?
Pignanelli: The "good old days" of keeping delegates happy for a re-election bid are over. Most candidates and challengers will utilize the new technologies to secure petition signatures for their campaigns while driving down the interest in their opponents’ efforts. This will be much more expensive, but also expansive in outreach to voters.
Webb: As of this writing, some 110 candidates were gathering signatures from party members to get on the primary election ballot. That includes about 60 legislative candidates and nearly 50 county candidates. That’s quite remarkable given the Republican Party’s unrelenting effort to create confusion and discourage signature-gathering. From now on, candidates will need to appeal to all party members instead of courting a relatively few delegates who tend to be more extreme in their political views.