Political communication

Long term – that should probably be ‘long-suffering’ – readers of this blog may recall that, back in 2009 when I was still working in Ireland, I bemoaned the apparent inability of the then Irish government to make a case to the people for the steps it was taking to repair the economic damage that had afflicted the country. The then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen in particular was politically tongue-tied, and the lack of any coherent narrative eventually persuaded the people, for better or for worse, that the government did not know what it was doing and had to be removed; and they voted accordingly in early 2011.

Political communication matters, because politics is in part about the discussion and analysis of ideas. It is also about people and personalities, but these become most effective when what they are communicating engages the electorate.

One of the reasons, I would argue, why current economic problems have been so intractable across the developed world is because those who have the levers of power seem to be so bad at explaining what they are doing with them, and why. Even Barack Obama, who was elected in 2008 by the American people on a wave of enthusiasm for his message, appeared to lose the ability to engage the people once in power and, no doubt, worn down by the sheer awfulness of the problems that needed to be solved.

But such communication can be done. And if President Obama has been less than perfect at being the national (and global) narrator, his predecessor but one, Bill Clinton, las night showed in his Democratic Convention speech (which you can watch here) that he is the master politician. He may have taken Obama a step closer to re-election; and perhaps to finding his own voice.

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8 Comments on “Political communication”

  1. Colum McCaffery Says:

    Yes, it was a fine speech and I agreed with much of what was said. However, it think implied in your piece is an assumption that political communication and indeed politics is something done by “leaders” or perhaps “politicians”.

    A great deal of the mess created in Ireland in the years before those you mention above was created by a failure of ordinary people to think about what was in front of their eyes. There was also an unforgiveable failure among the great number of Irish people who were paid to think and speak out. The vast majority of these failures are still in the same jobs. Here’s a blog piece that is now dated but still makes the point: http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/time-for-a-clear-out-who-misled-and-who-remained-silent-as-a-completely-irish-made-fiasco-developed/

    Here’s a more recent blog that – while about technology and citizenship – pushes the line that political communication is not the same as effective elite communication: http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/republican-citizens-on-facebook-need-to-choose-their-friends-deliberately/

  2. Anna Notaro Says:

    On the matter of political communication, it is interesting to analyze the word clouds of the acceptance speeches of Obama and Romney http://daily.wired.it/news/politica/2012/09/07/confronto-obama-romney-82541.html
    While for Romney you have ‘America’ ‘Better’ ‘Business’ ‘Family’ for Obama ‘Future’ ‘Pay’ ‘Believe’ & ‘Choose’, the latter being, to my mind, the most important word of all..

  3. OMF Says:

    What makes you think that any of these Governments actually know what they are doing? Aside from protecting their own salaries, I see little in the way of rational strategy from the Irish Government.

  4. Vince Says:

    On communication. Aren’t ya glad you have the Irish Sea and a good skelp of Scotland between you and Dr. Michael B. Murphy today. Not sitting in Fionnghlas/Finglas awaiting the deluge that’s about to pour on upper level academics.


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