In October 2014, the front cover of Time Magazine proclaimed Rand Paul “The most interesting man in politics.” This proclamation was predominantly due to his unorthodox platform as a libertarian Republican, which differentiates him from his establishment and Tea Party compatriots (as being more fiscally conservative and socially liberal). It seems the American public doesn’t agree with Time as can be seen through voters’ abysmal assessment of Paul’s debate performances. According to Public Policy Polling Paul now polls at a measly 4 per cent.
Beyond his quickly deteriorating campaign and (arguably) interesting policy positions, his campaign’s unique approach to voter outreach, the significance of which is easily passed-off as mere acts of desperation (which may very well be true to some degree), should be understood as the future cutting edge of political campaigning. More importantly though, such innovative approaches to politics could be seen as being reflective of the more overarching trend in politics in which new campaign methods and their mastery are of the utmost importance to political success.
Though thus far, Paul has conducted an overwhelmingly underwhelming campaign, his attempts at swaying voters to his side have been quite unique. The Paul campaign has gone out of its way to embrace new technology, and social media as well as other more contemporary approaches in reaching out to the public. According to National Public Radio (NPR), Paul is targeting more modern and youthful voters by “aggressively embracing new platforms like Vine, Periscope and Snapchat, which all come with the promise of behind-the-scenes access”. His attempt to adopt new mediums of campaigning culminated in an all-day livestream of his campaign on October 13. Yet, as noted by NPR, “as far as digital revolutions go, ‘Randlive’ offered all the excitement of a long car trip”. Like his previous attempts to reach out to voters in new ways, Paul’s livestream did little to nothing to help his campaign – if anything it may have driven away voters due to sheer boredom. Near the end of the livestream, when responding to a sarcastic question as to whether or not he was still running for president, a visibly annoyed Paul responded, “I wouldn’t be doing this dumbass live streaming if I weren’t.”
Rand Paul isn’t the most charismatic of candidates and his adoption of new platforms and methods of reaching out to the public may have done little to help him. Even so, Paul’s campaign claimed the livestream dramatically increased his site’s traffic (greatest level since the first Republican debate) which is incredibly important. Getting the public’s attention and reaching out to new demographics is the name of the game in a political campaign. Such new unchartered territory is likely to become an integral component of future campaigns – the mastery of which will soon become paramount to political success. Yet, the need for adopting and mastering new forms of public outreach is, and has arguably always been, a reoccurring motif throughout politics – but it has become increasingly apparent in the past century.
A prime example of the importance of not only adopting new campaign mediums but using them effectively can be seen in the role the television played in the 1960 US presidential election. The 1960 election had the US’s first televised presidential debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy. In an article on the monumental importance of the debate, Time claims, “it’s now common knowledge that, without the nation’s first televised debate, Kennedy would never have been president”. At the time of the debate, Nixon was recovering from a recent hospitalization, had been relentlessly campaigning prior to the debate, and refused to wear make-up for the debate – resulting in him looking pale, sickly, nervous, and tired. In contrast, Kennedy prepared extensively for the debate and rested beforehand, all of which aided him in appearing much more confident and relaxed when compared to Nixon. This debate served to turn the tide of the election in favour of Kennedy and forever changed American politics, and arguably, world politics in general.
The success of a political campaign is not achieved solely through one’s policy-stances, charm, debate skills, or political tact in general – but also through the capacity to expand one’s horizon of political outreach and most importantly, to utilize such methods in a proper fashion.
Assistant External News Editor