But that doesn't mean that she can't get elected. All it does is define the battlespace. Kevin Baker linked to an old post of his that crystallized a bunch things I've been thinking about for a while. So hang on as we blast off for Planet Borepatch, fueled by a Kevin Baker uber post. You know what that means ...
I think that not only can Palin get elected, but there might be a quite good chance that she succeeds. It will take her successfully executing on three ideas.
Idea #1: Know your enemy
At first glance, her political rivals would seem to be the yet-to-emerge pack of Republican candidates: Pawlenty, Romney, whatzisname from Indiana, etc. That would be the first hurdle for her; if she successfully defeated them, she would presumably face Obama in the General Election.
Note that I don't think that it's at all a certainty that Obama will run, or survive a primary challenge from Hillary Clinton if she takes a run at what would likely be her last shot for the brass ring. But that's a post for another day. Let's assume that the Democrat nominee is Obama. It doesn't matter. That's not her enemy.
The Press is her enemy. Obama isn't the reason that her negatives are so high; rather, it's the never ending drumbeat of negative stories about her - some true, some open-mouth-droolworthy false. If she campaigns against Obama and the other Republican candidates, she'll lose. She will have to take the media on - and beat them - to have a chance.
Quite frankly, she'll have to be ruthless in this fight, willing to destroy careers. Fortunately for her (as we'll soon see), this shouldn't be hard.
Idea #2: Find the point of decision on the battlefield
Napoleon famously said that on any battlefield there will be a single point of decision, where the battle will be won or lost. What happens at that point is critical to success, and the army must apply all necessary resources at that point to ensure success. The corollary is that whatever happens elsewhere on the battlefield is irrelevant to the final outcome.
So assuming that the media is Palin's enemy, what's the critical point on that battlefield where the decision will be reached? Remember, victory will be defined as a substantial reduction in her negative poll numbers. She needs to change a lot of minds to win.
It would seem that she's starting in a deep, deep hole. People just plain don't like to change their minds - this is why almost all new brand introductions fail within the first year, despite hugely expensive advertising campaigns. Most people have already formed an opinion on, say, which quilted toilet paper works for them at a price they'll tolerate. It really doesn't matter if you have the niftiest new quilted toilet paper of all time at an incredibly low price - most people are busy living their lives and simply don't want to devote any of their time to listening to you.
So when will people listen? They'll listen if they think they're wrong, and especially if they think that someone intentionally led them wrong. If someone starts thinking that they've been sold a bill of goods, their existing preference settings typically collapse like a pricked balloon. Marketing and PR types are very, very careful these days to avoid a situation where their customers start wondering if they've been lied to, for good reason: their customer base could collapse over night.
Idea #3: People don't trust the media
This is the point of decision. And quite frankly, Palin is positioned much better here than anyone is giving her credit for. As Kevin points out, the media's credibility is collapsing:
It's only gotten worse. One recent poll (take it as you wish) reported:Sure is. And a Palin campaign tagline that will hit this target is "Everything you've heard about me is probably wrong, because of Media distortion."
(J)ust 19.6% of those surveyed could say they believe all or most news media reporting. This is down from 27.4% in 2003. Just under one-quarter, 23.9%, in 2007 said they believe little or none of reporting while 55.3% suggested they believe some media news reporting.I'd call that "being divorced from the thoughts and attitudes" of the audience.
But she has to make it stick. As I said earlier this shouldn't be hard. There are so many stories, by so many reporters, so much video of talking heads spouting drool-worthy idiocy, that she could release a different one every day from now until election day. Here's the script:
"Today's media distortion is TV reporter Joe Bloggs from CBS, who said [insert the most idiotic thing that Bloggs ever said about Palin]. Here's the truth [insert something that the person at home can verify for themselves - the web is great for this]. You wonder that Joe was thinking when he said that - except you know what he was thinking. He was thinking 'We can't let Sarah Palin get elected.' So remember when you hear Joe talk about me - he's not interested in giving you the truth."
Pick a different target every day for a while, but keep coming back to a few carefully selected journalists. As I said, she has to destroy careers, and the web (particularly Youtube) will make her target acquisition easy. It will also have a high impact for changing a lot of minds minds in the public, as Joe Bloggs will be clearly seen as being not just biased, but likely idiotic too.
"Everything you've heard about me is probably wrong, because of Media distortion."
This relentless drumbeat will be heard by a public that simply doesn't trust the media to be honest. Kevin again:
The Editor & Publisher quote above, which notes that the Pew Research poll is based on journalist's self assessment was plucked from an Instapundit post. A comment Glenn found worthy left at that post:That's the theory. Can we test it? Do we see this happening anywhere? We do indeed, and Kevin's post offers up the acid test (it's a trifecta of win, and you really should RTWT):
One point that can't be overstressed is that the Pew findings are based on self-assessment. I worked in the newsroom at three large newspapers for 22 years, and many of the journalists who rate themselves as politically moderate are well to the left of center, especially on social issues. They are moderate by newsroom standards, not by the general public's standards.
Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem.
I recently finished reading a very interesting book, by coincidence also published in 2002, The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage by Professor Brian Anse Patrick, whom I've written about here before. The initial topic of the book was a study of how the NRA manages not only to survive, but thrive in an environment in which it is given nearly universally negative coverage in the media.The biggest switch is momentum on gun rights that's occurred in the last 20 years has happened as the public hears the media reporting breathless catastrophe prediction after breathless catastrophe prediction, none of which ever come true. The public - seemingly a large majority of the public - simply tunes out anything the media says about guns. Their preference settings have been set to "ignore the media because they're untrustworthy."
That's what Palin needs to do to win - convince a significant portion of the public that everything they think they know about her is unreliable. Then she can bring her regular campaign message like a normal candidate, because once the public's preference structure is disrupted, they'll actually listen to her. They may not ultimately agree with her, or vote for her, but she'll get a hearing. Until she breaks the media, they won't.
She'll have to have a detailed dossier of journalists, stories, publication dates, and quotes. Every time a journalist interviews her, she'll have to throw the quotes back in their faces, and make them justify why they said it. She'll have to have her own people record all her interviews, and post the clips of her challenge - and the journalists' replies - to Youtube.
Quite frankly, this seems like a target-rich environment, and in a couple of months, she'll have a huge set of evidence that the media really is biased against her.
The press will seethe with rage, but they'll have to cover her because she is such a huge story. She'll have to literally destroy some careers to make this stick: she will need to make them as afraid as they are angry. I'd feel sorry for them, but they are biased, and are using their power corruptly. You'll see me shed no tears for them.
Will she do this? Who knows? If she gets elected, will she be a good President? Who knows? Most of what I know about her is suspect, because even when viewed with my skeptical biased-media filter, I've learned most of it from the biased media.
But the media won't give me (relatively) unbiased information until she thrashed them good and proper. I look forward to the prospect with keen anticipation.
UPDATE 1 March 2011 11:32: Welcome visitors from Legal Insurrection. Many thanks, Prof. Jacobsen.
There's more thinking about Sarah Palin and how she's changing politics here and here.