Happy Constitution Day!

Happy Constitution Day!

Happy Constitution Day!

(I know, I’m a day late, but I’ve been busy)

So yesterday was ‘Constitution Day’ or the day commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787.

A day among my conservative friends that appears to be destined to be our own little Kwanzaa in the making.

Of course, this day of celebration lead to an intense political discussion with a friend.

This intense discussion disintegrated when my friend attempted to tell me what the founding fathers ‘meant’ in the Constitution and that we should NOT EVER waver from the original meaning.

Ahhh, the Originalism argument.

I am sure I could have found better words than:

“Please tell me which law school you went to to study Constitutional law?”

or

“How could you possibly know what the founding fathers meant?  The Constitution was debated – heavily – meaning the document itself is a compromise between differing opinions.  I think you are cherry picking founding fathers that you only agree with.”

I fumed on this argument for awhile, just because my friend was so darn sure of himself.  He was absolutely certain that he just knew what a bunch of guys meant 200+ years ago.   He quoted from the federalist papers, the declaration of independence, the constitution having an answer for everything.

Because I couldn’t find the words to express my thoughts, I bid my friend adieu and went on about my day still ruminating.

THEN the thunderbolt of a question, “If the meaning of the Constitution is so darn certain, why was John Adams and Thomas Jefferson arguing about the Constitution’s meaning almost until the day they died?”

John_Adams_Thomas_Jefferson

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

I went back and pulled an old book off the shelf, The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence.  Frankly, it is somewhat a boring read but the gist of the book is two authors of the same document, two founding fathers involved in the debate can’t agree on what the document means, and are arguing for history through a series of letters.

I also pulled down off the shelf a great book, Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis.  It is a fantastic, little book – highly recommended.

When you read the letters and learn about the debates – especially how the founding fathers tackled slavery – or didn’t for that matter, you are forced to come to the realization that the entire document is a series of monumental compromises.   Large states versus Small States.  Slave States versus Non-Slave States.   Federalists versus “Republicans”.

So my dear friend, once you study the Constitution and if you are intellectually honest, you must admit the Constitution, (and I paraphrase Ellis)  does not contain one overriding vision or singular meaning, only contradictory original intentions.

PS  If you do any studying of the era, you also realize that Hamilton was kinda of an ass,   but that is another post.

This week Ozean Media partnered with the Florida League of Cities to bring you video of the Florida League of Cities Candidates Forum held Monday, September 15, 2014 in Archer, Florida.

The forum is broken up into three parts: State House, Federal, and Local Alachua County

Florida State House Candidates

Keith Perry, Jon Uman

Federal Candidates

MariHelen Wheeler, Cat Cammack for Ted Yoho

Alachua County Candidates

Lee Pinkoson, John Martin, Ken Cornell

ad_iconSalon has an interesting piece about online advertising and the age ol’ questions about marketing and measuring success.

Worth a read.

Goes back to my philosophy, advertising is advertising regardless of the medium.

The article also references a very interesting study, On the Near Impossibility of Measuring the Returns on Advertising.”

In it, they analyzed the results of 25 different field experiments involving digital ad campaigns, most of which reached more than 1 million unique viewers. The gist: Consumer behavior is so erratic that even in a giant, careful trial, it’s devilishly difficult to arrive at a useful conclusion about whether advertisements work.

 

Also, worth the read.

civen-bundy-militia-ranch

 

Conservatives, if we ignore history, we may repeat it.

As you may know, I just finished an interesting read:  Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis, James Stimson.  

The book explores the disconnect between what the authors called government at an operational level and how people self-identify politically.

The author’s describe the main theme of the book as:

“a main theme of this book, that when it comes to policy preferences, there are more liberals than conservatives. On average about 50% more Americans choose the liberal response (or the liberal end of a continuum) than choose the conservative response. Given a choice between left and right options for government activity, left prevails on average. And this pattern is robust. It will not matter what assumptions we make or what operations we perform. The picture will always be the same. ” (Ellis & Stimson)

It is interesting how part of the analysis is so relevant to today’s news and the situation at Cliven Bundy’s ranch.

The Power of Symbols in Politics

The relevant part of the book to today’s topic is when the authors explain the paradox of their theme and why people are reluctant to call themselves “liberal.”

A brief history, FDR first coined the use of liberal as we know it in today’s American politics.  However, the liberal label failed to gain majority support under Roosevelt, and it took a REAL nosedive after his terms.  Between 1963, when the Kennedy assassination made Lyndon Johnson president, and 1967, the third year of LBJ’s Great Society, the ranks of self-identified liberals fell by 10.5 points.

“John Kennedy would not be the last liberal president. But he would be the last who would call himself a liberal.” (Ellis & Stimson)

This shift became permanent.

It has something to do with the thermostat in politics – after JFK’s assignation, LBJ had majorities in BOTH the Senate and the House.  Nothing stopped a radical shift to liberal policies.  “No such moderating force existed in the 89th Congress. It passed what its liberal majority wanted to pass, without need to compromise. By the normal standards of American politics, that Congress committed legislative excess.” (Ellis & Stimson)

During this time, when the solid liberal’s were operating, passing laws and controlling every aspect of government – there was also a tremendous civil unrest:  Civil rights, race riots, war protests.detroit_race_riot_1967

“The collapse of civil order in the face of angry mobs was a picture of America coming apart at the seams. Quite probably they are a big part of the story of declining support for the idea of liberalism as well.” (Ellis & Stimson)

When television covered the civil rights marches, the race riots as the authors writes “our theory is that liberalism became associated with aid to the black underclass, not simply with blacks.” (Ellis & Stimson)  “Liberal, that is, was already associated with support for blacks in 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement. But that association doubled over the next eight years in the period of the riots and the poverty program.” (Ellis & Stimson)

Then came the Vietnam war, the hippies, and the Counter-Culture – and all of the visuals & symbols that came along with it.  counterculture

“…ideological self-identification is formed largely as a reaction to symbols associated with the ideological labels themselves.  What we see in all our evidence is that the symbols of liberalism became charged with symbols of race and of racial riot and of protest.  (Ellis & Stimson)”

“The events of the 1960s and the emergence of the American counterculture also helped to erase FDR’s hoped-for image of the “liberal” as the straight-laced, working class family who plays by the rules and works hard to get ahead.  Instead “liberal” became the label used to define hippies, peace protesters, and people generally divorced from the American mainstream.” (Ellis & Stimson)

“Of all left-leaning symbols in American politics, “liberal” stands nearly alone in its unpopularity.” (Ellis & Stimson)

Ramifications of Cliven Bundy & Symbols

Regardless of the inflammatory language, I don’t think we are close to riots in the streets, and I do not believe these are as turbulent of times as the 1960s – but there is a potential.

It would appear that we, Conservatives, have been dealt somewhat of a lucky break in that no violence erupted in Nevada.  Conservatives need to pray that we continue to be so lucky.

If the label “Conservative” becomes hijacked and used to define neck-tattooed, racist, violent unrest that is generally divorced from the American mainstream, we may be in danger of repeating history.

Thermostats and Politics

I have been thinking a lot about thermostats and politics lately.

This thought pattern has been driven by two things:

  • I banned someone from my facebook page for the first time ever, and
  • Two separate books I have been reading discuss thermostats and politics.

The Facebook Ban

First, the facebook ban.

As you may know, I am a weekly guest on a local talk radio show.  I discuss politics, political strategy, and the science behind politics.  Over the past few months, I have ‘engaged’ in a ‘debate’ with a loyal listener.

I am all for free speech, debate, and the exchange of ideas.  I enjoy it, I enjoy different perspectives, and I enjoy being challenged.

However, our ‘debate’ always seemed to denigrate with this listener to a bullying session rather than any attempt to learn from one another.  The listener’s mind was made up, and if you didn’t 100% agree, began the attempt to beat you into submission with a volley of name calling, fallacies, and curated ‘proof’ from selected blogs.

The final straw was when the listener fabricated and attributed to me things I didn’t say in an attempt to make a point.  Even when corrected, the listener wouldn’t stop.  All of this being done mostly on my facebook timeline.

A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

-Winston Churchill

Finally, I had enough of the nonsense, shrill rhetoric, and name calling.  I banned the listener.  It has been the most peaceful, glorious week.

Yes, you have a right to free speech, but I have a right to turn the channel.

However, the series of incidents served as a perfect, recent example of the overheated, political rhetoric of our times.

The Books

I have read two books in the past three weeks:

Schelling’s book, Micromotives and Macrobehavior,  explores the relationship between individual’s decisions and their individual characteristics (micromotives) and aggregated social patterns (macrobehavior), and how these two influence each other.   Because as we know from our previous studies, our observance of how people act is a powerful force on how we act.   Schelling writes of ‘contingent behavior—behavior that depends on what others are doing.’

Ideology in America’s  “main theme of this book, that when it comes to policy preferences, there are more liberals than conservatives. On average about 50% more Americans choose the liberal response (or the liberal end of a continuum) than choose the conservative response. Given a choice between left and right options for government activity, left prevails on average. And this pattern is robust. It will not matter what assumptions we make or what operations we perform. The picture will always be the same.”

So, one book about economics, the other book about political ideology and the disconnect in people’s stated political ideology and their policy preferences at an operational level of government.

When two separate and non-connected books (one authored by a Nobel prize winner) mention the same thermostat framework, it is time to place close attention.

Thermostats and Politics

The basic premises of both books is explained in Schelling’s Micromotives and Macrobehavior :

“The thermostat is a model of many behavior systems—human, vegetable, and mechanical.” (Schnelling)

“If the system is up to the task of attaining the desired temperature, it generates a cyclical process. The temperature rises in the morning to the level for which the thermostat is set—and overshoots it. It always does. The temperature then falls back to the setting—and undershoots it. It rises again and overshoots it. The house never just warms up to the desired temperature and remains there.” (Schnelling)

“The thermostat is smart but not very smart…. If the system is “well behaved” the ups and downs will become smaller and eventually settle on a steady wave motion whose amplitude depends on the time lags in the system.” (Schnelling)

Political Ideology, when writing about the study’s methodology expands this framework specifically to politics:

“In Wlezien’s conception, public opinion is mainly relative – a matter of more or less rather than absolutes.” (Ellis & Stimson)

“Public Policy Mood moves in the direction opposite to control of the White House and does so quite systematically.” (Ellis & Stimson)

“It tends to reach high points in either the liberal or conservative directions in the years in which out parties regain control. And then it moves steadily away from the winning and controlling party.” (Ellis & Stimson)

“Group A is left of Party “L.” Group B has preferences between the two parties. And Group C is to the right of Party “R.”  But since only Group B changes in response to party control, it forms the longitudinal signal for the entire electorate. Thus the whole electorate acts, on average, as if it were entirely composed of Group B.” (Ellis & Stimson)

“Our conclusion is simple. Our best single understanding of why public opinion moves is that based on basic thermostatic response. Much political commentary, failing to take this fact into account, ends up looking to mystical and exotic sources to explain the commonplace. And much of that commentary sees the changes of the moment as harbingers of a different future, when the political landscape will be fundamentally different from what it currently is.  But we know that the changes of the moment will be reversed as quickly as they came, as the public reacts against the ideological direction of the party in power.” (Ellis & Stimson)

Conclusions

Believe it or not, today’s extreme rhetoric can be explained as “normal” and in fact, completely predictable and expected.

In my opinion, today’s rhetoric is in response to two major items:

  • the extreme nature of the recent financial meltdown, and
  • the extreme nature of the expansion of government with Obamacare.

If you consider our political system to be explained by a ‘thermostat model’, today’s extreme rhetoric is simply Group C reacting in an attempt to regulate the political system.

Take solace that “Group B” will win- in time, and the system will regulate once again back towards some sort of equilibrium.

The Nest thermostat pictured above has gained a toehold in the market because the current thermostats are inefficient – our old thermostats aren’t that smart.

What America needs politically is a Nest thermostat, but until that time calm down and relax.  Unfortunately, today’s shrill politics is an overheating of the system, soon to self-regulate.

 

It’s the end of 2013, and that means lists.  Lots & lots of lists.

Top Political Related Reading

Top Political Related Reading

In this Buzzfeed type of world, we present to you:

Top Political Related lists for 2013

2013 Digital Media Stories

This article from AdWeek, These Stories Dominated Digital Media in 2013, discussed all the things that the cool, digital media kids are chatting about.

  • Native Advertising
  • Social Ad Race heats Up
  • The Mobile Cliff
  • The Mobile Shakeout … and the Spending Surge
  • Programmatic Soars
  • Questionable Traffic
  • Responsive Design
  • NewFronts
  • Viewability
  • Yahoo Buys Tumblr, and All Eyes on Mayer
  • Snowfall’s Shadow
  • Content Gets Money
  • Adtech IPOs

For Ozean, the two biggest take-aways in digital media in 2013 are:  the serious & significant amount of fraud in the digital advertising space and the continued rise in the importance of content marketing.

Best of Neuromarketing – 2013

Neuromarketing fascinates us at Ozean Media.   The fact that we can now peer into your brain versus only making observations of your actions is really cool stuff.

The biggest take-aways from Neuromarketing in 2013 is the power of metaphors – especially visual ones.  We also found the monkey and social media article very interesting.

10 Most Popular Psychology Articles from 2013

The biggest take aways from Psychology in 2013 are the power of choice in persuasion and the importance of the anchoring effect.

The 31 Most Important Political GIFs of 2013

Finally, we must give credit to BuzzFeed for curating the post that made us laugh the hardest this past week.  If you don’t laugh for a good 20 minutes at The Most Important Political GIFs of 2013, then we suggest you see a doctor.

breaking-walk

Shameless Plugs

Finally, a shameless plug for one of Ozean’s popular blog posts:

Top Reads in Political Science for 2013

While you are in the reading mode: Don’t forget to check out Ozean’s Political Research Library.  We think it will serve your political nerd needs.

To begin, I need you to think of the most stereotypical politician you can.  Yes, we are talking three piece suit, monocle, the whole 9 yards.

Kinda like this guy:

conservativearchetype

This is the guy that asked for a meeting with me yesterday.  It was a great meeting….until the walk to the door.

I have friends who are doctors, and they have continuously warned me about the walk to the door accompanied by the “oh, one more thing doc…..”

The one more thing? “and, by the way, I want a digital campaign that will go viral.”

Alex Patton's reaction to Viral Request

My reaction to a request for a “viral” digital
media campaign

DAMN IT! DAMN IT! DAMN IT!

I haven’t lost it this badly since the request for big data.

Besides my cynical problems with authority, I get a little flabbergasted when people take flippantly very complicated concepts, especially things we do as political consultants.

In an attempt to be more patient, please allow me explain myself.

The Science of Going Viral

Besides Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, there are two main books to look at when attempting to understand why and how things “go viral”:

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Contagious by Jonah Berger

If we look at Heaths’ 6 principles:

  • Principle 1 – Simplicity - an idea stripped to its core.
  • Principle 2 – Unexpectedness – we must generate interest and curiosity
  • Principle 3 – Concreteness – sticky ideas are full of concrete images
  • Principle 4 – Credibility -
  • Principle 5 – Emotions – we must make them feel something
  • Principle 6 – Stories – we tell stories

If we look at Jonah’s 6 principles:

  • Principle 1 – Social Currency – How does it make one look to talk or share?
  • Principle 2 – Triggers – what trigger are we going to use?
  • Principle 3 – Emotion – some emotions increase sharing, others actually decrease it.
  • Principle 4 – Public – can we see others engaging in our desired behavior?
  • Principle 5 – Practical Value – How can we craft content that seems useful?
  • Principle 6 – Stories – What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in?

“There are six principles of contagiousness:  products or ideas that contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and wrapped into Stories.” (Contagious, Berger)

So as we can see, there is a bit of actual science and heavy lifting that goes into creating a viral video.  It is no flippant matter.

I would highly recommend reading all three books, but Heath sums up the main issue we have with politicians & their desire to “go viral.”

As Heath writes, “The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this:  Break a pattern.”

According to Alex Patton’s Grand Unified Theory of Political Communication, in order to get a voters attention in this fragmented, cluttered world – we must be novel or shocking (break a pattern).

Immediately, we run into issues with a stereotypical politician’s request to “go viral” !

The Risk Tolerance of Politicians

If you have done any work with politicians, you will find the most risk adverse set of clients you will ever come across.

Let’s think back to our stereotype.

Do you think that guy’s natural inclination is to take wild risks and break patterns?

Getting a politician or candidate to agree to even explore the fundamental requirement of going viral is extremely difficult, at best.

Political Positive Deviance – Going Viral

Let’s search out some positive deviance to learn from specifically from the political world:

A Google search of “Political Viral Videos” is illuminating:

Politico:  10 best viral political videos of 2012

Why is is illuminating?  In the top 2012 videos – not a single one of them was made deliberately by a politician.  Yes, several of them star politicians, but none of them were designed or created by a politician.  NOT ONE.

There are two three examples that I can recall off the top of my head of politicians purposefully creating ads that went viral. They also happen to be some of my favorite ads:

We are Better that that! – Dale Peterson

Demon Sheep Ad

We may even include a third:

Pigs – Ted Yoho

What do all of these have in common?

The candidates were desperate enough to take risks.

I’ve spoken with the gentleman that created the Demon Sheep ad, and they were desperate to change the conversation at the time of the ad.

Dale Peterson had little money, little name ID and was most likely going to get creamed.  What did he have to lose?

Ted Yoho was running against a 27 year incumbent in a Congressional primary and did not nearly have the resources available to him. At the time of the ad, according to what polls you believe, he was down 5-9 points.

Again, ALL DESPERATE enough to take risks and break patterns.

Interestingly, when you study risk & human behavior, humans become MUCH less risk adverse when they “have nothing to lose.”

Conclusion

There is a point to this post.

In every case in which our firm has won national recognition, it was because a client was willing or desperate enough to take risks.

There is something about having your back to the wall.

The problem with risk? We may fail. And as we all know, when one fails on the Internet, one fails for all of mankind to witness and share.

So, before you flippantly request your political consultant to make you a digital media campaign that will go viral, you need to assess your tolerance for risk.

Because, the only way to make a video of your talking head tax presentation ‘go viral’ may be to loosen the screws in your chair so that it collapses ending in an uninterrupted stream of your cussing while a cat slinks by to close the video.

PS Finally, IF we are lucky enough to strike gold and have something go viral, we may want to discuss the value to your campaign of getting 100,000 karma on reddit and 1,000,000 you tube views comprising of people outside your voting district. (but that is another post)

Background

This week, the House passed the Ryan/Murray budget bill by a large majority, and the vote somehow immediately became a proxy in the “GOP’s civil war.”

I admittedly was pleasantly surprised when I read that Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL3) voted for the deal.  Rep Yoho is a self described “conservative Christian Republican with a libertarian slant.”, and I would have lost some major money betting on how my Representative would vote on the budget deal.

I see Rep Yoho’s vote as significant.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL 3)

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL 3)

In the past, I have angered some of Rep Yoho’s supporters because I have dared to be critical of some of his actions.

Sorry folks (no matter how many friends or clients of mine you call to express your extreme displeasure), I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em, and I still think some of the past actions of Rep Yoho deserve criticism.  Specifically, I completely disagree with his tendency towards isolationism in foreign affairs and his ability to get himself into situations that allow the press to paint a caricature of him. However, I don’t think I have ever questioned his political soul. (more on that later….)

If I am going to call ‘em like I see ‘em, I must offer praise to Rep Yoho on this budget deal vote.

In a statement released to the press Rep Yoho wrote:

The American people are tired of Washington dysfunction. Legislating from crisis to crisis has caused a trillion-dollar debt and an acceptance of the status quo. This budget resolution offers a path to reduce the deficit and cut spending in a responsible way,” Yoho said in a statement.

“Getting back to a regular budgeting process allows us the opportunity to cut spending and root out wasteful programs. I look forward to breaking through the partisan logjam and doing what the American people sent us up here to do — bring back the greatness of America.

Well said!  Well done!  Nice Job!  Kudos!  

Ramifications of a Budget Vote

Why I think this vote is significant? Because, this vote is coming from a Rep who was on the tip of spear for the previous government shutdown.

  • The vote shows he is learning.  [Remember, this is a Rep who came to government with zero elected office experience and was thrown into the big leagues.]
  • The vote shows he is listening to others outside his natural base.  [Remember, he was elected in a 4 way primary, NOT achieving a majority in his own party.]
  • The vote shows he has the courage to step away from his natural base and grow his coalition. [Remember, he won by +1.1% in the primary, he needs to grow his coalition.]

We should have known that if I am defending Rep Yoho and his vote, it was sure to anger some of his more extreme fans. They did not disappoint.

The Extreme

12980_10104504072284851_1304734986_n

I don’t know who wrote this, but it was sent to me as something that appeared in a Facebook feed.

We all have the ability, right, and some would say the responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable – but this bullshit above crosses line.  This is what is wrong with the extreme right & politics in the GOP.

Ted Yoho for all discernable purposes is a tea partiers’ dream.  For his brief time in Congress, he has represented their point of view almost 100% of the time.  He is the darling.  I think he has earned his bona fides and political capital with this group.

THEN ONE VOTE that you don’t agree with him, and you call him a kool-aid drinking sell out?

People like above and the 94 people who ‘liked’ this junk are exactly what is wrong with politics.   The absolutism must be rejected.  It is killing our country.

Rep Yoho showed with this vote that he thought about it deeply, reasoned the ramifications out, and gave thought to a greater good.  I think THAT should be celebrated.

If you disagree, you have that right.  However, a more productive manner would be to disagree with the actions – not the man.  If your first reaction is decry someone as a kool-aid drinker then you’re just kind of being a jerk.

2013 Top Reading List for Political Consultants

2013 Top Reading List for Political Consultants

During each odd number year, I set a goal to get better at my political science craft.  Part of that goal is reading.  Odd number year = take advantage of some down time = goal of 50 books related to political consulting.  In 2013, I exceeded the goal by 5. #humblebrag

I believe the job of a political consultant is to study how people make decisions and then figure out how to affect the decision making process.  This means our area for study is wide and vast.

In attempting to categorize the areas of concentration of my reading, I’ve come up with Behavior Decision Making, Cognitive Brain, Game Theory, Political Psychology, Advertising, Neuromarketing, Branding, Argumentation, and Philosophy.

I would say that this year’s main focus was on attempting to read more about how the brain works, makes decisions, and ways to potentially influence voters.

When people find out about my reading goal, I am often asked for recommendations.

Here you go:

Alex’s Fancy 2013 Top 10 12 Reading List for Political Consultants

(Note:  The links provided are NOT affiliate links.  They exist only for your convenience.)

12. Political Game Theory: An Introduction (Analytical Methods for Social Research), McCarty, Nola

Regardless of what the title says, this is not an introduction.  There is math, lots of math, lots of advanced math.  It is not for the faint of heart, and approximately 57% of the math went over my head.  The part I did retain was fantastic.

11.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig, Robert M.

Read this book on my digital sabbatical.   It is a philosophy book, but a classic, welcome relief on a beach weekend.

10.  Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (Oxford Handbooks) Sears, David

A great anthology on political behavior, group relations, theoretical approaches, and change politics.  I admit, I only skimmed the International Relations section.

9. The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns, D. Sunshine Hillygus &, Todd G Shields

The science behind wedge issues and cross-over voters.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman

Additional Reading on the two major systems of the brain.

7.  How Voters Decide: Information Processing in Election Campaigns (Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology), Lau, Richard R.

Behavior Decision Making Theory.  A very interesting methodology used by Lau to study how voters actually decide.

6.  Follow the Leader?: How Voters Respond to Politicians’ Policies and Performance, Lentz, Gabriel

I loved, loved, loved this book.  In fact, I wrote an entire blog piece about it.  Essentially this book tells us that in agreement with cognitive studies that issues mean little in the voters decision making process.  Again, a novel methodology to studying the issue.

5.  The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election, Sides, John, Vavreck, Lynn

An absolute must read.  This book takes a deep dive in Romney / Obama, separating the “political science truth” from the talk show pundits’ “truths”.  If you are interested in the science of politics and what really happened in 2012, you should read this book.

4.  Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, Siegel, Eric

If there was ever a book I read this year that made me read every single footnote, it was this one.  This is fascinating stuff, but it also carries over into your clients’ request for “big data.”

3.  The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving, Jones, Morgan D.

While this book contains practical methods to critical thinking, the major revelation in this book is that our minds are liars.  This book started my year long journey into biases, cognitive research and humility.  If you consider yourself a true political analyst, you must do some meta-thinking about your biases and adopt some methodologies to counter them.   If the smartest analysts in the world implement methodologies to attempt to minimize bias, political consultants should also.

2.  The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom,Haidt Jonathan

While this book is additional reading into the two major systems of the brain and how our brains fool us, the book’s other key insight is the importance of metaphors.  It uses the perfect metaphor for the two system brain: the rider and the elephant.  This one metaphor wrapped up all the research and reading of cognitive biases into one simple to understand package; thus stressing the need for metaphors.  Eureka moment!  It has the added bonus of adding to our understanding of human nature and the concept of happiness.

1.  Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment, Marcus, George E.

This was the one book that allowed me to pull together “Alex Patton’s grand unified theory of political communication.”   I had just completed reading the book and was ruminating on it while doing a 50 mile bike ride.  Then came the Eureka moment, the proverbial lightning strike.  I had to stop my bike and find my phone voice recorder as soon as possible.  Yes, it was that dramatic.  The book is dry and academic, but for me it was the most important book I read this year.

Re-reads

The Prince, Machiavelli, Niccolo

Classic and must be read at least once a year.   It is a political consulting law.

Influence, Cialdini, Robert

Another classic, it should absolutely be required reading.  Want to learn how to use social proof in politics?  This is the start of your journey.

The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Taleb, Nassim

This book significantly changed the way I think about and make sense of the world.  It is a discussion of how highly improbable events have massive influence on our lives.  Once you read this, you can no longer give ‘guarantees’ and you become aware of the fact that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, McKee, Robert

What does screenwriting have to do with politics?  EVERYTHING.  Political Consultants are story tellers, and there is no better book on the structure of stories and how to tell better ones.  Looking how to construct a hero narrative?  Look no further, read this.

The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, Zaller, John

Read this in college, and Zaller’s four axioms have stayed with me ever since.  I normally re-read this every other off year for a refresher.

Final Words

Noting that political consulting has few professional credentials other than reputation, it is imperative that we take ownership of improving our craft.  If you are still relying on decades of accumulated rules of thumb, I think you should make a change in your behavior.

Our minds are tricky little devils, and we owe it to our clients to get better.

Happy New year, and I hope the cycle is prosperous for you and your family.

All of these selections and more are included in the Ozean Political Library.