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September 2016

Can you be effective advocate in the age of hyper-partisan politics?

The world of advocacy in 1994-2007...

  • The political landscape and policy agenda is dominated by consensus politics. This is the age of Dick Morris strategy navigating a middle-ground and triangulating a new space to create policy.
  • Large social movements and campaign worked to build “a middle” and establish broad interests in action among a newly organized constituency behind a centrist policy.
  • Focus on the clear single issue frame set up  in a way that resonated across both political camps but pulled toward a middle way forward.
  • Strange bedfellows under one tent.
  • Issues with broad support make progress.

The world of advocacy now...

  • Issues that are framed in the middle languish. They are not a priority for people in power.
  • Shifting leadership, micro-targeting messages, echo-chamber media and increased gerrymandering make each campaign specific to each person, each audience.
  • Building a "middle" or consensus is an action happens at the end of a campaign once 2 sides of the political spectrum have prioritized the work for their own agenda and within their own frames.
  • Successful efforts have shifting stories and etch-a-sketch framing.
  • Issues with passionate support among partisan camps influence leadership and make progress.
    • Drones
    • Surveillance
    • Childhood obesity
    • Privacy

We are in the age of hyper-partisan politics. The implications to advocacy groups and agendas.

  • New strategy is to build the priority of the issue within the core of each camp.
  • Get better at accepting complexity and contradictions in overall strategy.
  • Push both camps base to prioritize changes for the individual reasons that the issue appeals to various camps.

Need to explore the new skills and strategies for partisan advocates.

  • Partisan focused framing
    • Evaluate the issue resonance among the core participants in each opposing viewpoint.
  • Working in ad hoc solidarity not coalition.
  • Build efforts that support networked cells within each camp.
  • Pushing and promote champions within the fringe of the partisan camps.
  • Support structures which creating moments of alignment and actions.
  • Support more issue organizing within each camp.

Closing Thoughts

  • We live in a more partisan political environment.  
  • The trend shows no easing.
  • We must adapt effective advocacy strategy to the shifting political process.
  • This has significant impact on strategy and accepted wisdom of campaign planning at the local, state and national scale.