Matthew Steeples highlights the workings and truths behind the changed political landscape of 2016
2016 will be remembered as the year when the world flipped convention on its head. With the brutal monster Fidel Castro finally gone, Donald Trump headed for The White House and Brexit in Britain, comes a new era but it is not one that is actually as clear-cut as many make out.
Unlike in previous eras, social media undoubtedly has had more influence than the traditional media and pollsters have taken a bashing. In spite, for example, of the fact that “Hillary Clinton [is] currently beating Donald Trump by 64.2 million votes to 62.2 million in the popular vote” and thus “winning the election by 3.1%”, according to Kevin Chesters, chief strategy officer at Ogilvy & Mather Group UK, “as usual the historical narrative will swallow the bulls**t myths instead”. He rightly points out “the polls nailed it” as they predicted “all gave Hillary between a 2-5% lead nationally with a +/- 3% margin of error” but the likes of Breitbart, unsurprisingly instead, spread a myth that ‘The Donald’s’ victory was epic. It was just that, in the sense that he achieved a win in spite of being mocked as an extremist joker who’d fail at the beginning, but the true margin of support for him is indicated by the fact that nationwide turnout fell from 61.6% in 2008 to 57.9% in 2016.
In Britain, equally, the Brexit vote was “won” by just 2.2% and thus both results can be described as being far less significant than the right-wing media make out. Nigel Farage is lauded as a “hero”, yet, despite standing seven times, has never won a seat in the House of Commons; Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP failed to get independence for Scotland yet she dominates our screens daily.
Trump and Farage have clearly both been clever in their respective strategies and just as Castro opted to ignore convention and ruled Cuba with a rod of iron, these two ditched the politics we know and played an entirely different game. Hillary Clinton’s decision to stand with self-serving billionaires and loudmouth celebrities truly backfired and instead, in Jared Kushner, his 35-year old businessman son-in-law, and the tech tycoon Peter Thiel, Trump was led to a strategy that trounced traditional political convention.
A truly revealing analysis of Kushner’s genius appeared in Forbes this week when he was interviewed by for the first time since Trump’s victory. In the feature article, Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and designer of the Clinton campaign’s technology system, stated:
“Best I can tell, [Kushner] actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources… Jared understood the online world in a way the traditional media folks didn’t. He managed to assemble a presidential campaign on a shoestring using new technology and won. That’s a big deal”.
Kushner himself added:
“I helped facilitate a lot of relationships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise… People were being told in Washington that if they did any work for the Trump campaign, they would never be able to work in Republican politics again. I hired a great tax-policy expert who joined under two conditions: We couldn’t tell anybody he worked for the campaign, and he was going to charge us double”.
“People really saw hope in [Donald Trump’s] message. They wanted the things that wouldn’t have been obvious to a lot of people I would meet in the New York media world, the Upper East Side or at Robin Hood [Foundation] dinners”.
“I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff. They gave me their subcontractors… Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono. People from the business world, people from non-traditional backgrounds”.
“We weren’t afraid to make changes. We weren’t afraid to fail. We tried to do things very cheaply, very quickly. And if it wasn’t working, we would kill it quickly… It meant making quick decisions, fixing things that were broken and scaling things that worked”.
As Dan Hodges concluded in an editorial in today’s Mail Online:
“Once, we used to send a gunboat. In the post-Brexit era, all it takes is a tweet”.