Saturday, June 11, 2016

Straight about endorsements

Last week, Hillary Clinton effectively declared herself the nominee of the Democratic Party's ticket for the November election (effectively because the nominee will only be decided at the Party convention next month), setting the stage for a mega fight with Republican nominee Donald Trump. This is certainly going to be an unconventional electoral battle, where most assumptions are going to be proven wrong. However, the response of the political system to the end of the primary season has been on expected lines: party bigwigs have come out with their endorsements, some enthusiastically (Obama), and some very, very reluctantly (Paul Ryan).

At this stage, you also have a number of sundry wannabe-celebrities trying to make their endorsements. And that's where it can get a bit comical. Hollywood has always has a larger-than-life image, and indeed, they did produce Ronald Reagan, but one has to wonder - if everyone is making endorsements, who is supposed to listen? In politics, celebrities may be an interesting group of people to have around, but an endorsement counts for little unless it can be followed up with an authority, instead of being forgotten in a few hours.

There are only two kinds of endorsements that matter: political endorsements, and endorsement from the mass media (newspapers, radio, and new media). The first is because the endorsement is also a contract to hand over a political network that has the power to raise funds and canvass for a candidate. That is why endorsements from governors are so valuable - because they bring in a network that covers an entire state (and similarly for senators). The media gives the power of authority - long after the politician leaves after the election, the media is there, and people repose faith in their newspapers and talk shows (for better or worse). Moreover, the power of the media to amplify a message, as Donald Trump has used to great advantage, is priceless.

Every other endorsement is like an ad on TV that plays just once - effective for sometime, but not much. It gives the endorser an ego boost, but little else, except for perhaps the small set of celebrities who enjoy a larger than life status that can actually influence votes. Mostly, though, it might inspire a few Facebook posts and tweets, but little else. 

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