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Axelrod's "unified theory"

amberglow's picture
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New Republic-- The Message Keeper:
How David Axelrod learned to conquer race

"... The self-described "keeper of the message" for Obama's presidential bid has taken the lessons he learned from his mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns and made them cohere into something that approaches a unified theory of how to elect a black candidate--emphasizing biography, using third-party authentication, attacking with an unconventional sideways approach, letting voters connect to the candidate by speaking to them directly in ads, and telling voters that supporting the black candidate puts them on the right side of history. ..."

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badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

running a candidate with the ability, experience and philosophy to campaign on and govern with a progressive political agenda?

Oh - there it is - under the bus - right next to the muffler.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Axelrod's job is just to get his client to where her or she wants to go, and nothing more. As a campaign manager/advisor/strategist, he couldn't care less how they'll possibly govern.

My problem isn't so much with Axelrod's profession, so much as it is with his level of smugness given the quality of his product: i.e. rather mediocre politicians as compared with the office they are seeking. It's one thing to be proud of one's success rate; it's a whole other to be smug and arrogant about a crappy product. The other problem, though, is the profession, because you've got to be more careful when producing a product that can affect some many people in some many serious ways. False advertising shouldn't be an option.

Yes, Axelrod sure does know how to conquer race: by completely washing out all of the important details. I don't necessarily see anything wrong in minority candidates finding a creative way to make the race as advantage for themselves, because, God knows, there are still many areas where their opponents actually do use dog whistles. But, in this particular election, I've been downright appalled with the tactics the Obama campaign has been used to make his race work for him. I'm convinced that he's gone about the race issue entirely the wrong way, and in such a way we will not have moved forward in any positive way on race and politics when this is all said and done.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

Axelrod’s job is just to get his client to where her or she wants to go, and nothing more. As a campaign manager/advisor/strategist, he couldn’t care less how they’ll possibly govern.

That's the same attitude that says if people simply follow their rational self-interest and not worry about externalities, the market will make us all rich and secure.

It's the same attitude that says Lehman Bros. and AIG's job was to make money now however they could, and it's not their responsibility to worry about the future or any kind of social consequences. It's government's duty to pick up the pieces for Lehman's bad investments and Axelrod's incompetent candidates?

It's the same attitude that says Detroit should make muscle cars and SUVs that get 10MPG because that's what's most profitable for them today (or yesterday, at any rate), and they're not responsibile for the politics of oil consumption or climate change or the eventual collapse of the US auto industry.

It's the same attitude that says a utility's job is to produce electricity, not to worry about nuclear safety or nuclear waste, or CO2 and mercury emissions from burning coal.

Or that a health insurer's responsibility is to make a profit for its stockholders, and if they kill a few people in the process, that's just the way the market is supposed to work.

Or that Chinese milk producers should only worry about producing a product that passes the protein tests and if that involves a toxic additive like melamine, well, that's not their job to worry about that.

If Chinese milk producers shouldn't kill their customers, than why is it OK if Axelrod gets elected a politician who will arbitrarily kill constituents through ignoring food safety, health care, wars, whatever? If Enron shouldn't defraud its stockholders, than why is it OK if Axelrod's candidates rob the country blind? Ignore whether you think Obama will or won't do those things - where does Axelrod's responsibility rise to the same level we'd expect from a milk producer or Enron under the quoted description of his duties?

I would agree that if Axelrod can't get his clients elected, he's not doing a very good job, but the kinds of clients he uses his skills to get elected is also his responsibility. And so is the effect his actions have on the public discourse and the common good.

At what point in a process do we worry about the actual consequences of our actions and take responsibility for them? When do we think about what it is our actions are actually supposed to produce in the entire social context?

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Where I specifically state:

"The other problem, though, is the profession, because you’ve got to be more careful when producing a product that can affect so many people in so many serious ways."

I think I made it quite clear campaign strategist should consider the real-world consequences, and that they do have moral/ethical obligations.

I hope your rant was a more general one about the human condition.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

It begins with an unqualified declaration (quoted) of the limits of Axelrod's job and responsibilities - not "Axelrod believes his job is ..." or even the less precise "Some people believe his job is ...".

From that, I can only assume you accept that definition of job and responsibilities, since you simply state it without any qualifications. It's that definition that I reject and that I find unacceptable.

You qualify it later as the profession's problem or "[m]y problem", but it's neither. The problem lies in the mode of thought that accepts the defintion and treats it as comprehensible and comprehensive in the first place. It's at best imprecise and at worst a kind of Newspeak common in contemporary discourse designed to limit the discussion and free the subject (Axelrod in this case) of any wider responsibility for the consequences of the subject's actions.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

And one you fail to accept. Axelrod has a legal obligation to render the requested services to his client. The moral obligations, as you can clearly see, are subjective and thus debatable. My only point was that I much more fault Axelrod for his questionable tactics than I do of his overall job description, a profession he shares with the likes of Harold Ickes and Donna Brazile. I think we're missing each other, somewhere.

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