It's Politics as Snooze-ual

No Wonder People of Color and Young People Vote Less

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Karl Carter Karl Carter
What has been on my mind most lately is politics. It was really political pressure that led to the widespread focus on diversity inside the ad world. If politicians hadn't applied that pressure I doubt it would have happened naturally within the ad/media world. So this was a good thing. But when you start to work within the world of politics you see that political campaigns are often lacking in diversity. Smells like hypocrisy to me.

It only seems fair that if we are working to right our diversity wrongs within our industry, the political industry should recognize and practice the same within its own ranks. After the last eight years, obviously we need to make sure that every hand is raised come the next presidential election.

But sadly, too many campaigns are following the politics-as-usual route. Self-interest is rearing its ugly head again. There's nothing wrong with doing great work and bringing attention to your company. But it shouldn't be at the expense of the candidate or the voters. Instead of creating collaborative teams of agencies that represent the expertise needed, communities of color and young people get taken for granted. Easier to ignore them than split the pie and admit the need for help. And when you go calling as an agency you sometimes won't even get the professional courtesy of a reply.

Engaging companies who have expertise in the candidate's voter base feels like a no brainier. I was actually told once by a presidential campaign staffer that GTM was the first company of color that had been seen in their office.

As I talked about in my first Big Tent post, the client and the public suffer when self-interest prevails. Except that in this case, the public has a lot more to lose.

In this historic race where a woman and a black man are highly favored next presidents. With so much at stake, isn't it a good time to diversify? I am sure that a diversity audit of the top presidential campaigns would turn up some interesting facts. Like how very few decision makers, campaign managers, media strategists, online strategists, chiefs of staff and agency owners employed by the campaign are people of color. A real commitment to the diverse companies that reflect the communities from which these campaigns seek votes and donations is absolutely critical and ethically needed.

Even when political consultants bring in campaign employees to address young people, or non-traditional strategies, those recruits are often treated as the underdog, with very little power and influence inside the campaign.

So what happens? We wind up with cookie cutter campaigns. The conventional wisdom is that people of color and young people don't really vote as much. Guess who you need to get this voter block? Companies who have knowledge of the multicultural and young voter demo.

Now, it's well known that non-traditional media as part of the media mix is needed to make an impact, since TV as a sole media vehicle has been experiencing diminishing returns. People are on mobile, online and at events almost equally at least. So if all the focus is being put on TV and it's delivering less, you have to ask why a significant shift hasn't occurred within politics towards other forms of media? With a trend so obvious, there must be another reason why. Let's try self-interest on the part of traditional agencies, buyers and consultants.

According to an email on Dec 9, 2004 from "For years, the Party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers." Four years later, we're right back at the same place. Self interest, public interest, self-interest, public interest, hmmm, tough call. This is not a partisan attack on the Democrats, there's plenty of BS to go around. The Republican Party doesn't even act like they want to support or reach these communities. Obviously, George Bush does not care about communities of color. Just ask Kanye West and the people still rebuilding their lives in New Orleans.

The brand of democracy needs to be rebuilt, its promise needs to be realized and revitalized. For too many people, they don't believe because nothing ever changes in their communities no matter who gets elected. Focus on improving their experience and in creating change in urban communities, you'll have plenty of voters there.
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