Thursday, August 14, 2008

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Blog Relations and Independent Politics

As I prepare to participate as a panelist on today's Bulldog Reporter audio conference, “Blog Relations Update for PR: Top Online Influencers Show How to Break into Blogs,” I realize I have a near-perfect example of what PR campaigns should NOT do to "reach and influence" blogs.

Barack Obama sent me a letter this week. I am on his email list and get those regular weekly or semi-weekly emails. I made a couple of small donations during the heat of the primaries, primarily to support and encourage Barack's valiant and successful attempt to take on the Clinton machine.

As an independent activist in New York City for the past 15 years, I can tell you that there is no love lost between independents in New York and our junior Senator Clinton. Hillary has personally attacked the preeminent Black independent in New York and the nation, Lenora Fulani, and has tried to strong-arm the Independence Party here in New York. Hillary is an independent-buster par excellence. As the Secretary of the Queens County Independence Party representing more than 21,000 party members (23 percent of voters in Queens are independent) this is no small matter.

The pitch from the Obama campaign to me in this letter states midway down on the first page:

"Together, we can change the way business is done in Washington. We can end the undue influence of special interests, bring Democrats and Republicans together to ge things done and finally solve the problems facing hardworking families across this country."

Ok, who is he talking to? Couldn't be me -- I'm not a Democrat nor am I a Republican.... Hmmm.....

"This has been a long campaign. and we've traveled this road with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for President. In her 35 years of public service, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people. Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the Aermica in which my daughters and your daughters and granddaughers will come of age."

Screeching halt. I didn't really read the rest of it....

Here's the problem: Yes, I'm a woman. Yes, I live in New York City. According to this letter, however, the only thing I have in common with Barack is that I have two daughters.

In spite of the fact that independents make up 40% of the electorate nationally, in spite of the fact that independents were responsible for boosting Barack (AND John McCain for that matter) to his current position of presumptive nominee, in spite of the probably tens if not hundreds of thousands of independent voters that Barack has spoken to and with during the course of his campaign to date, he/his campaign still doesn't "get it."

I suspect that the Obama campaign thinks that independents are middle-of-the-road centrists who are "critical" of their parties, be they Democrats or Republicans.

Independents are not centrist Republicans unhappy that their party has lost its way. Independents are not centrist Democrats hoping to get back into power this term. Independents are people who don't like partisan politics. We are NOT THE CLUBHOUSE! We are people who don't choose to align ourselves with either major party because we don't fit in those categories. In fact we are anti-partisans, in the tradition of the Founding Fathers (and mothers, sisters, brothers, etc....)

But this is not a failure on the part of the Obama campaign. Barack after all is a Democrat and is doing what he knows how to do to win the nomination of the Democratic Party and the White House. And he's doing it pretty well.

The Obama campaign's slight to independents -- their continued ignoring of 40% of the electorate -- is a failure on the part of independent voters. We are not yet sufficiently organized, and therefore powerful enough, to make our statement in a way that can be heard by the powers that be.

To the Obama campaign: You could call Lenora Fulani and Jackie Salit to get some advice on how to approach independent voters in New York City. [That's what you do to win elections in New York City... but hey, who's counting...?]

To independent voters: Keep organizing!!


PS -- Barack, I have a blog..... Check it out....

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