Even though, I am a supporter and campaigner for the Yes to AV campaign, I do agree that the both sides have used some diabolical arguments and campaigning techniques. Then why campaign you ask? I believe that if you believe in something, then you should get involved, show your support, plus I’m young and want to be in the thick of it, so it would be stupid of me to stay out of this fight; since it’s the first referendum Britain has had in 36 years. However, this article is not about my personal beliefs, or my position. It’s about modern campaigning politics, and how we haven’t learnt from Obama’s victory in 2008.
I have recently graduated from LSE studying politics and communication, and a major part of my study was critiquing the impact of political campaigns. I learnt that campaigns can be a source of information, but very rarely alters ideological bias and social predisposition. “Democracy is essentially an educational experience” (Heywood, 1998: 45); therefore shouldn’t campaigns represent these principles. Especially, when it’s a referendum campaign, this being a form of direct democracy; requiring the citizen to have a role in the policy process, educating them on the proposal and asking them to make an informed decision when answering the question. Can you honestly say the AV campaigns have been an educational experience? It’s felt more like a bitching match between political parties, and not a discussion about changing our electoral system.
In the era of post modern campaigning politics we have seen an increase in spin, political advertising and strategic management. Some believe this has led to disengagement or cynicism in civic society, but it also means there are more multi-media platforms and ways to become involved in the political system than ever before. Perhaps it has led us to becoming more critical and arguably more sophisticated in our level of political awareness due to this critical attitude. The current AV campaigns feel like it’s about ‘winning the race’, one upping the competition. A referendum is not a race, and you may think you have all the facts but think again. Research outside of what the political parties are telling you, find information from nonpartisan groups and truly explore what the pros and cons are of each electoral system.
For example, a lot of people would have you believe that Obama won the presidency solely by radicalising campaigning politics through the internet, this is not true. Yes, Obama’s campaigning techniques were radical and inspirational but other factors contributed to his win. And the true success of his campaign was how Obama captured the mood of the nation by mobilising the people. Obama’s campaign did use the internet in a new and effective way but more to combine the masses through technology and people power. Obama came from a volunteer organiser background and even in the senate races advocated grassroots canvassing. He believes in people being apart of the political process, engaged in politics, as stated in his election night speech: “from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.” This was the most successful aspect of Obama’s campaign, and he did this through “encouraging, empowering and educating”. So be empowered, educate yourself! This is your chance in 36 years to truly have a say on what our electoral system should be, on how our democracy progresses. Please vote, and make an informed choice.
Articles for Research
- AV ‘not a referendum on Clegg’, says Miliband (independent.co.uk)
- British readers: vote on AV tomorrow! (reprog.wordpress.com)
- Is your kitten confused about the referendum? (jasperhaddrick.wordpress.com)