As I listen to the post-election chatter, online and on air, I keep feeling that the key point is being missed:
There is a ceiling to how much can be accomplished by political ads!
Lots of folks are talking about the achievements or lack thereof by Rove's dark money. Good points are made on all sides of this issue:
- It's crucial to have established the fact that big money can be beaten.All true, and all important. This result DID NOT remove the threat of Citizen's United.
- However, the dark money investors aren't going anywhere and will be back.
- They DID affect the race, lowering our winning margins, making us spend money, and winning down ballot races.
- There is a danger that this result will be used to DEFEND Citizen's United.
- It's hard to see how we can replicate this result time after tie with the finite resources available to average folks who have real life to live.
Think about this tactically. No matter what side you're on, what did you see as the result of this election?
Carpet-bombing advertisements had limited, in some cases negative success! Like all ads, political spots reach a limit of effectiveness and law of diminishing returns when they reach a saturation point. People just tune out, often angrily. At a certain point, you are not gaining anything by spending more money on ads.
In my view, this TACTICAL fact will have significant implications for future campaigns. I see these on 2 levels:
1. Political campaigns will be aware of an effectiveness ceiling and they will strategize accordingly.
2. The American people are increasingly learning to tune these message out. My hope is in the day when as a nation we learn to process political ads (and MSM!) in the way that Russians learned to process state propaganda, understanding it for what it is. This year's deluge of appalling message overkill--both in terms of quality and of GOP lying--I think will harm GOP credibility for years to come.
Now, given the above: here's the encouragement. We can compete!
See, the only application of huge money that makes any sense is in political ads. And that is where we have seen that a ceiling on effectiveness will always give us a chance to compete.
In every other aspect of campaigning and political organization, we know we can compete.
Of course, this is no promise of nirvana. Our side will always be subject to fatigue. They can hire thousands of mercenaries and we have to recruit people to set aside their lives for a time. Our challenge is to keep up the pressure, cycle after cycle. That scares me.
But at least we can take comfort in knowing that there is a limit to what Dark Money can buy. We're in the game!
Here's a link to my previous diary on this point: Citizen's United: the Opportunity.