Campaigns

Discretion is the better part of Moderation

TechPresident, writing about the Slate story reviewing moderation practices on Sarah Palin's Facebook page, says it is "less a cleaned-up open Facebook conversation than a some sort of curated narration to the life and times of Sarah Palin."

Dickerson and a colleague built a program that tracked comments on 10 Palin posts over the course of 12 days. Now, you might assume that team Palin took a hatchet to especially negative, anti-Palin commentary. And some of that, it seems, happened.

But that's not all that went down. The Palin enterprise also scrubbed from her feed comments where, found Dickerson, folks went after people who wrote mean things about her. Racial slurs were enough to get the boot, yes. So were suggestions that she shouldn't let her kids (Bristol, presumably) do reality TV or vaguely-worded notes about Barack Obama birth certificates. Also no good: excessive religious imagery and mild objections to Palin's picks of candidates to endorse.

So, the Big Story here is that Palin's staff tries to maintain a decent community by keeping things civil and focused, and weeding out the jerks?

Look, we've gotten too wrapped up in the idea of politicians and/or technology having clear, defined and consistent rules.  That just doesn't work in a social medium. If you create any kind of bright line "no racism/cursing/personal attacks" rule, then you have to make decisions about exactly what does and does not qualify as racism/cursing/personal attacks - and you will be attacked for your decisions no matter where you draw the line.

Social interactions are too fluid for that kind of strict rule-making.

So what is the answer?  I think there are two reasonable options: 

  • Safe Harbor: A couple years ago (I can't find it now), Patrick Ruffini pointed out that the more control you try to exert, the more responsible people will hold you for what you allow.  Moderation = Responsibility.  The Obama campaign went the other direction, largely allowing anybody to post anything and only exercising minimal oversight.  When you have a flood of content, nobody blames you for the idiots leaving drops on the carpet.
  • Discretion: As appears to be the case at Sarah Palin's Facebook page, discretion is the better part of moderation.  That makes sense.  We don't demand hard, fast, bright line rules in the offline world, because we couldn't possibly make rules to cover every social situation. We wing it.  We use discretion. We do the best we can and move on. 

Maybe that will be the best way for political organizations to manage their online communities, as well.  Politics is already complicated enough. The online world doesn't have to be much more complicated than the offline world.

 

Bad Campaign Ideas 2010

Campaigning does strange things to people.  For instance, it makes some people think videos like these are a good idea....

This video from CAP's Campus Progress is....well, to paraphrase Douglas Adams: 10 out of 10 for trying something unusual. Minus a few million for execution.

 

 

On the other side of the aisle is the recent Mike Weinstein video....which, if you haven't seen it yet, go watch it right now.  And then curse me when you can't get it out of your head for the rest of the day.  They win on choreography, vocal talent and sheer enthusiasm (though, in fairness, it's not hard to out-enthuse zombies).

 

 

I can only assume that the new social media tactic in politics is camp. This may actually be an improvement over some of the previous social media tactics (send press releases about yesterday's news!)

Interview with Tom Campbell, CA-GOV candidate

I spoke with Tom Campbell for over 45 minutes on a range of topics, and I’ve split my posts on that discussion into two posts, one here and one over at QandO. Here at The Next Right, I’m going to cover new media, elections, and the politics of enacting fiscal-conservative governance for a state like California. Over at QandO the topics have more to do with policy.

Tom Campbell isn’t your typical candidate.

Pitted against two Republican candidates with far less experience but much greater personal wealth, he’s opted to reach out directly to voters with new media, doing substantial blogging himself and even personally answering hundreds of questions about the gritty details of policy in the comment sections of his campaign website.

Going against the grain, he’s pushed to be far more specific about necessary painful budget cuts than his fellow Republicans. Still he appeals to demographics that have tilted Democrat – Northern Californians and young people – giving him a polling advantage over his fellow Republicans in a general election matchup.

Campbell isn’t some upstart: he has extensive experience in politics and government, having been elected to Congress five times starting in the late ’80s and having ran against Dianne Feinstein in 2000. He seems to be a contender in the race. So I was interested to hear his take on how things have changed and how he might translate electoral victory into governing power.

Fundraising is Not an Independent Variable

This is reposted from the GOP Tech Summit on Ning. The RNC will be collecting ideas for online activism and its broader implications (my focus here) through the end of the week -- and this is your chance to get your two cents in.  

Traditional campaigns usually unfold in this order:

  1. Raise money and stockpile resources so that you can afford to get your message out.
  2. Spend the money to get your message out and gather support, usually through expensive mediums like TV, radio, or mail.

Barack Obama flipped this model in 2008. Yes, he was able to raise impressive sums early on from bundlers like David Geffen and Penny Pritzker. Considering how the campaign unfolded, this round of funding can be likened to angel investors in a startup: they give enough to buy the pencils and fund operations for a few months, but the company is ultimately expected to sink or swim of its own weight by selling direct to the consumer.

In this case, selling direct to the consumer meant money and volunteer hours, not just votes. Fundraising was not the province of a few bundlers or a few closely guarded lists or of a few direct mail tricks, but of an innovative campaign that fused fundraising, volunteer activity, and vote-getting.

This is what a typical McCain fundraiser in the last campaign looked like:

And this is what a typical Obama fundraiser looked like:

If you're telling yourself that was primarily a rally, not a fundraiser, you're right. The difference is that 1) the event in question was held on February 23, 2007 -- two years ago Monday -- on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, not exactly when we're used to seeking big rallies and not exactly Iowa or New Hampshire. And 2) to get in to the event, each person had to register for tickets online. Getting someone's e-mail address is like raising $10 or $15, and in Obama's case, probably more like $35 or $40. The 20,000 people at that event probably donated $1,000,000 collectively to Obama -- and the cost of acquisition was nearly zero -- more than all but the most successful rubber chicken Republican fundraisers.

In this way, the traditional model was turned upside down: for the most part, Obama gathered political support and only then did he really kick the fundraising into high gear. This is different -- in a messier and unpredictable way, but also in a more lucrative way -- than stockpiling resources to meet a budget and shifting the focus late in the game from fundraising to grassroots. Cashflow issues aside though, I doubt that the Obama people minded much when the money came in.

The lesson here is that fundraising is not an independent variable. Fundraising is a dependent variable and the independent variable is the message. There does not exist an innate ability to fundraise independent of a strong message -- unless the candidate is fabulously wealthy and can self-fund. And in cases where there might be, all the fundraising in the world cannot overcome a poor message. If a candidate is wealthy or has rich friends, but has no message, the GOP should run -- not walk -- away from that candidate.

This is directly relevant to the RNC -- and all our campaign committees -- because they will often seek out self-funders with the thought that it might relieve the financial burden on the committee and allow it to invest in races where more help is needed. Political consultants often tend to favor this type of candidate -- because they pay. This is all well and good, if the candidate is a good candidate with a strong message, but if not, we're in trouble. And if a race really matters, the RNC or any other committee will probably pour in resources regardless. Paid media is not very leverageable and even $10 million can go to waste quickly if the force multiplier that is the message is zero.

Beyond a focus on self-funders, the all-consuming focus on early high-dollar fundraising is a direct threat to those of us who would like to a see a pervasive grassroots focus throughout the entire campaign. Hundreds of man hours are spent putting together an individual event, by which time the $2,400 check collected at the door nets you $1,500. Hours a day of the candidate's time are spent on the phone with big donors, and then we wonder why candidates are seen as insiders who can't connect with the grassroots. There is no doubt that this model can raise a lot of money. But not enough. Barack Obama shows that the alternative to this can not only raise enough money to compete -- it can utterly destroy the 100 city, $2,400-a-plate tour. Ask Hillary Clinton what it feels like to be the candidate of big donors.

The big donor, big bundler model worked in 2000 and was on its last legs in 2004, but we must now confront the reality that it just doesn't scale very well. It's important that we lay down a clear marker for future campaigns, and institutionalize this at the RNC: finding a creative way to collect 100,000 online petition signatures is now more important than the New York City finance event. I'm sorry, but it just is. It should require more executive level focus. It's more efficient and it scales better and it allows you to do everything you need to do in one fell swoop: get donors and activists all at the same time.

We Need Service-Oriented Infratructure

Colin Delany makes a crucial point at e.politics (and techPresident) about the importance of (a) integrating new/internet/social media with the rest of the organization rather than siloing it as one department among many, and (b) treating new media as a force multiplier for existing goals.

[Former Obama new media director Joe Rospars said] his department was NOT a part of the campaign's tech team. Instead, it was coequal with communications, field/grassroots, finance, etc., and was in fact just as much a client of the technology folks as, say, the press team was.

His remark jumped out at me because it's true so rarely. More often, online organizers and online advocacy staff are put in the technology box rather than allowed to be communicators ... And online communicators are often the last people consulted when messaging and outreach strategy are being planned, when they should be a part of the process from the beginning. [...]  [I]t's not the tools, it's the people and how they're organized and directed to USE the tools.

The Obama campaign used the internet as well as they did not because they employed tools that were particularly new (database-driven field organizing, email fundraising, online video and social networking have all been around for years) but because they worked out human systems to put those tools to work effectively.

 It is important that we don't put the technology cart before the mission horse.  The internet simply changes the scale at which we can productively do things that people already want to do.   As I've written previously, the Leftosphere is not effective because they can fundraise and mobilize activists.  They are effective because they can communicate and organize people around a message.  Fundraising and activism is a product of communication and organization.

I've outlined the correct course and order for rebuilding the Right as follows. 

  • ...better information organization, which helps create coalesce a movement around...
  • ...the organizing agenda, out of which flows...
  • ...the storyline, narrative, which motivates...
  • ...the grassroots/netroots to get engaged, mobilized and donating, all of which is channeled effectively by...
  • ...the infrastructure, both online and offline.

Notice that the first 3 steps are really about information organization, ideas and communication.  It's not until we get to step 4 - when people are actually motivated to do something - that new, innovative technology really becomes necessary to turn information into more tangible results.

The key: new media operations need to be service-oriented.

The internet is not an organization, full of people to direct.  It is a market, full of people who already have things they want to do. 

We need to stop approaching the internet with a "what do I want them to accomplish?" mindset.  Instead, our campaigns and infrastructure need to ask, "what do they want to accomplish and how can we help?

Decentralized Campaigns?

Fundraising and ad buy numbers have become the metrics by which many judge campaigns.  There's no disputing that a big bank account and widely seen commercials are valuable to a campaign, but perhaps we have gotten too fixated on metrics which are merely a proxy for measuring progress on actual campaign goals.  

Did Obama get so many votes because he got so much money, or did he get so much money because he was energizing voters?  Did Obama's contributors donate because they felt empowered, or did they donate in order to feel empowered?  Did Obama get more votes because the Obama campaign ran commercials, or because pro-Obama commercials ran (these are two different things)?

I bring that up for two reasons.

  1. Internet Influence: Pew Research finds that the internet "has now surpassed all other media except television as a main source for national and international news."  Increasingly, the line between "the media" and "the internet" will blur, both because new information channels will emerge online, and because traditional media will become internet media as they realize their distribution channels (newspaper, television, radio) are not the same thing as their business.
  2.  

     

     

  3. Long Tail Empowerment: During the 2008 campaign, Open Left's Chris Bowers experimented with what he called a "Personal Paid Media campaign".  In essence, Bowers became his own media consultant, conducting his own advertising campaign.  By using search ads, he was able to promote his own message to the target audience he wanted to reach. 

Traditionally and for various good reasons, campaigns have been very centralized, command-and-control organizations.  As campaigns learned how to exploit the communication economies of scale offered by mass media, this centralization and message control made a lot of sense.  However, this advertising arms race has led to undifferentiated playbooks and commercial saturation, so we've probably reached the end of those efficiency gains.

As the internet becomes more and more influential, we're going to have to break this path dependency on broadcast distribution.  After all, TV and Radio are not the same thing as "advertising".  Can this personal paid media model could be done on radio, television and newspaper advertising?   Google is trying to do it.   Voter Voter does it, as well.   But it hasn't really taken hold yet, perhaps because the dominant broadcast media are centralized distribution channels.

The internet is not a disruptive force for campaigns because it is a new distribution channel, but because it is a decentralized distribution channel

You don't need a multi-milion dollar campaign to be able to make and distribute an effective ad to a target audience.  You can do it yourself.  You don't even need the permission of the campaign or a central seller to do it.  You can run your own campaign, becoming a part of what Pete Snyder called an "army of spokespeople". 

It's been said that the 20th century was about improving supply, and the 21st century will be about improving demand.  I think this is a key insight into how internet politics will evolve.  It's less about making campaigns more efficient and more about making the public more efficient, with better tools, better information, and better channels for information activism.

The internet will certainly impact the supply side of campaigns (how they raise and spend money), but the greatest impact may be on the demand side of campaigns (how the public consumes and acts on information).   This would be a force multiplier for campaigns.

Those are tactical improvements, though; decentralized campaigning also offers a strategic benefit to the Right.   Currently, the Right does not have an effective outside whip mechanism to deliver consequences for bad behavior.  As a result, we have unresponsive politicians and a Republican Party that is not well aligned with the interests of the grassroots.

Decentralized campaigning would provide a whip mechanism against this unresponsive Republican political structure.   The Right has been sinking millions of dollars into Battleships (e.g., Freedom's Watch), when we ought to be building pirate ships and guerilla fighters to conduct information activism at the grassroots level. 

The Politics Of A Suspended Campaign

In an unprecidented move, John McCain has suspended his presidential campaign, in order to return to Washington and help pass the $700 billion dollar bailout. Not only that, but he has asked Barack Obama to return the the senate with him, which would also mean suspending his own campaign. 

The politics of this move are fundamentally good, and on paper it seems like a good idea. By doing this, John McCain has put Barack Obama on the defensive. By doing this, John McCain is attempting to seize the economic issue right out from under Obama. 

Of course Obama would not like to suspend his campaign, no one would. However, Obama has only two choices in this matter. He can either suspend his campaign, and follow John McCain's lead, or he can continue campaigning. Both have consequences that are not good for Obama, and he must choose carefully.

If he follows McCain's lead and suspends his campaign, then it looks as if he is admitting that McCain's judgement on the issue is correct, which undermines his whole campaign's basis that Obama's superior judgement is a substitute for his experience. 

On the other hand, if he does not suspend his campaign, he may look as if he is not concerned with getting the bailout passed, and may loose his moral authority on the economy. He will look as if he does not care about rescuing the economy, so much as he cares about becoming the next president. McCain would of course seize on that, and a whole new round of claims of Obama only worrying about political expediency would surface. Like last time, these claims would be very effective.

As of this writing, the Obama campaign has issued no response to the news. Essentially, Obama is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and will need to make this decision carefully. The ball is in his court, and it will be very interesting to see how the Obama campaign responds to this very unconventional news. 

Obama's Integrated New Media Marketing Campaign

The Newsweek story about the McCain and Obama campaign blogs has gotten attention for what it says about the blogs, but another point in the article is much more important. 

As our online donations come in, said Rospars, Sam calls up the contributors at random and asks why they chose to give to Barack. Like, right away? Yep, he answered. They're usually pretty surprised. Then he posts their stories on the blog. Sometimes, they even make their way in Barack's speeches. The point: "to make sure that whatever we're doing in new media is totally integrated with whatever else is going on: politics, finance, field operations, communications." For Rospars, an official campaign blog wasn't an informal diary of some dude's views on the news of the day. What was the point of that? Instead, it was a tool for harvesting useful information from supporters--and shaping their perceptions of the race with a steady stream of positive press releases, videos and news articles. [...]

If there's one phrase to describe Obama's blog--and, in fact, his entire Internet operation--it's "a means to an end"; Obama may benefit from unprecedented online enthusiasm--four to eight million email addresses, 1.5 million donors, 800,000 registered users of my.barackobama.com, his social networking platform, and hundreds of commenters on every post--but his team's greatest innovation has been its relentless focus on converting that energy into favorable offline outcomes: registration drives, caucus turnout, et cetera.

Their "new media is totally integrated".  That is having profound effects, some of which are obvious (fundraising), others of which are less visible (voter identification, online community, offline peer groups, echo chamber, stakeholder relationships).  There are various basic ways new media (or social media) can be beneficial.

  1. Messaging - communication, particularly targeted to specific audiences and influentials, rather than mass communication
  2. Mobilization - community development and reinforcement, online-to-offline activism; individual mobilization can be due to direct campaign contact, peer relationships, or general community influence
  3. Money - good fundraising is the result of doing #1 and #2 effectively; donations can reflect an investment in the ideas (#1), or in the relationship/movement (#2)

The Barack Obama campaign is putting all of these together, and in the proper order.  They aren't just running a good political campaign - they are running a good marketing campaign.

In 2003, the Howard Dean campaign experienced something similar, but they weren't able to translate the energy into offline results.  They had the means, but could not apply them to the ends. 

However, the Dean campaign made the Obama campaign possible.  The Howard Dean campaign discovered the new territory; the Obama campaign has industrialized it.

The Ron Paul Aftermath

Among Republicans, the Ron Paul campaign inspired the most remarkable grassroots campaign activity in 2008.  In the past, such campaigns have had a significant impact on the political landscape, signaling the emergence of a new movement, a maturing constituency, a campaigning innovation or a future political star.  

In the case of Ron Paul, though, I'm not sure any of this will obtain.  There are a few reasons for this.

 

  • No Coherent Coalition:  The Ron Paul campaign attracted a grab-bag of different agendas, from hardcore libertarians to alienated Republicans to Buchananite nationalists/cultural conservatives to anti-war liberals.   This is not a coalition that stays together. 

 

  • The Protest Vote: that coalition was not brought together by a candidate with whom they agreed broadly.  It was brought together because, wherever he stood on other issues, Ron Paul pushed 1 or 2 passion buttons for each group.  Ron Paul was a protest vote.  However, protest voters tend to be bee-sting voters: they vote once, but then fall away.

 

  • Independent Innovation: The tremendous fundraising and mobilizing success Paul's campaign experienced largely occurred independently.  The campaign was actually taken by surprise to a great extent.  To their credit, they embraced it.  However, while the idea of distributed activism is a valuable concept for other campaign's to understand and use, the actual grassroots energy is not something that a campaign apparatus can reproduce.  That is a perfect storm product, requiring a unique candidate and good timing.

 

  • Candidate Flaws: Ron Paul was always a far worse candidate than his supporters wanted him to be.  In theory, he was a Republican who actively supported constitutionally limited government.  In practice, he was also partly a crank (North American Union, Gold Standard) who talked about smaller government, but had no real "here to there" plan for accomplishing it, and at least tacitly tolerated racism being put out under his name. 

But hey, he raised a lot of money and got a lot of support, right?  Well, sure.  And perhaps that's all he was really after in the first place. I had heard very early on that Ron Paul wasn't running for President to win, but to build his email list and bank account. Better to do that by running for President than letting Lew Rockwell ghostwrite racist tracts, I suppose.   But, as Jim Henley writes, Ron Paul didn't just fail to win, he failed to have an important impact.

Paul failed to win any states, to move the GOP debate in his direction, to accrue significant delegates or to leverage his fund-raising into a third-party run. And word is he’s staying quiet about endorsing an independent because he doesn’t want the Congressional GOP leadership to strip him of committee assignments come the fall. Paul accomplished the one thing he’s always been good at: using political appeals to get people to send money. I don’t feel freer.

The one potential exception to this is the largely under-the-radar effort by many Ron Paul supporters to join and take over local GOP organizations.  Whether the Right-of-center elements of the Paul coalition will be successful remains to be seen - bee sting voters might also be bee sting activists - but it looks now like this is the only area where the Paul campaign might possibly have a lasting impact on the Right. 

 

The Next Republicans: Going Forward

 One of the reasons for the foundation of this new site was the necessity for new thinking about the New Conservatism in the wake of the Bush era. Republicans in the country have tasted little but continued defeat at the polls and a distinct lack of any original thinking out of Republican Washington since the Democrats took power in 2006. Consequently,  many of us have thought about how we go forward to present a new substance to an electorate that has grown exhausted with Republican governance and a Washington Party that is clearly out of ideas. 

Indeed, many are angry at a Washington Party grown too comfortable with the power and privileges of their safe, gerrymandered seats. Nobody now realizes this more than our friend Tom Cole, who found this out in no uncertain terms, when he posted this boilerplate to the NRCC blog page back on May 16th. Tom's meat paragraph is reproduced here:


This week, my colleagues in the Republican Conference announced the American Families Agenda, spearheaded by my colleague, Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas. This new agenda concentrates on the bread and butter issues facing every American. And it recognizes that today, more and more families struggle with balancing work, children and caring for elderly parents. Over the coming weeks, Republicans will be promoting new ideas that give people more personal freedom and lessen the burden of government.

As Mr. Churchill is said to have wryly remarked at a dinner, "This pudding has no theme."

The reaction of Republican activists out in the country to this blog post was, to put it mildly, tectonic. The furies were unleashed and surpassed some 2,500 responses, virtually all of them negative. This post came in the aftermath of the defeats in Louisiana and Mississippi, and could be summed up in one phrase: "not one thin dime!"

The House Leadership, through its own inaction and blundering, had for a very short time, come to symbolize all that was wrong with Washington for Republicans. 

However, for all that, we have to deal with the electorate we have in order to change the Party for the future. The present leadership is emblematic of a Republican Party that remains rooted in the convictions and the certainties of the last decade, and what's more, one that does not ask the voter what they want, nor appeals to their aspirations for the future

That is a cancer, for without vision, the people perish. 

What I'll try to do here is to make some suggestions about Big Terrain Issues and Methodologies. We're all on the same team here, so take this blog entry with that understanding.

People don't hate Government. The only people who hate Government are the Libertarians, and even they call the Fire Department and pay taxes for the maintenance of roads and highways. They recognize that it is necessary. They simply want it to work properly for less of their income. This is simple stuff. We forgot that sometime after, say, 2002, when we started building Bridges to Nowhere. 

We got thrown out in 2006 because people were convinced that Republicans had shot their bolt both overseas (the confidence in warfighting and war-winning) and in the ability of the Republican Party to run the Government. Hurricane Katrina became a metaphor for Republicans in Power. 

We did not get elected in 1994 so that we could head for the hog trough. But that's exactly what we did!

The fact that the Pelosi Democrats have immediately headed for the hog trough is immaterial.

Getting our butts kicked in 2006 was the best thing that ever happened to us, because it began the process of cleaning out the deadwood and the Colonel Blimps. However, when we go to the country at large, whether it is for a State Legislative office or for a House Race, people are going to want to know how we can make government work better for them. That's how you get swing voters to vote for you. 

And you have to be substantive, and well thought out, and on much more solid ground that your Democratic opponent. We do that by polling, of course, but also by getting down into the Big Muddy with the voters and asking them what they want. In too many cases, Republicans believe that technology is a substitute for shoe leather.

Personal experience. We had a state legislative race down here for the Florida House in 2006 in House District 97. Susan Goldstein was the Republican incumbent. Marty Kiar was the Democratic insurgent. Yes, it was a Democratic year, but Marty helped himself by knocking on no less than 20,000 homes over the previous year (either him or his volunteers). Goldstein's last minute negative ad blitz came a cropper and Kiar should win reelection, although the GOP will put up a fight.

Republicans have to relearn the virtues of the Eisenhower era. I liked Ike. Ike meant a strong national defense and an effort to restrain spending. When we lost the Green Eyeshade voter we lost one of the signal differences between us and the Democrats. 

Ike, if you'll recall, served two terms and drove away from the White House an extremely popular man. 

First: spending, spending, spending. Bringing expenditures and outlays into balance will be the chief worry of Republican statesmen going forward. There are several issues at hand: paying for and solving the issue of entitlements, Social Security's long term solvency, the solvency of the Medicare Prescription Drug program, dealing with the long term threat of Chinese naval rearmament and replacing U.S. tactical air assets.

All of these must be paid for. Do not expect an environment of generous tax relief to survive in a universe of such demands on the Treasury. No matter what Larry Kudlow says; that's the environment Republicans must live with. 

Democrats will raise taxes across the board. They control all the strategic committees. They intend to sunset the Bush Tax Relief package.  This will happen whether John McCain is elected or not! The battleground will be on how the money is spent. 

Democrats intend to spend money on their client base. Hogs, meet trough. Get used to that environment. Oh, and they will try to find a way to blame us. We will need to find a way to fight them. 

Republicans have to argue, up and down the ballot, for an Energy policy that calls for solutions based on energy produced here in the homeland. No one likes being at the beck and call of the likes of Chavez and the Saudi Royal Family. We have to argue for growth based on exploration and development. 

Two of the virtues of Ike's policies, learned in Europe and Korea, were Rearmament and Restraint. I strongly suspect we are headed towards a more isolationist sentiment among the electorate. Victor Davis Hanson has touched on this some, but I suspect that even should McCain win, one of the unintended consequences from even a successful Iraq Campaign will be an increased sense of isolationism and alienation from the Europeans. This will effect campaigns as we go forward. The notion of an Atlantic Alliance with the Europeans will not remain sacrosanct among Republicans for long.

Lastly, how the Iraq Campaign is concluded will affect politics in this country for the next twenty to thirty years. If we bring it to a successful conclusion and the Iraqi Government stands up at least a halfway competent regime that can protect Iraq's frontiers, then all will be well. Indeed, Democrats will be chastened by their early forcasts of defeat. When John McCain states that he would rather lose an election than lose a war, I get over my reservations about the man. 

However, if a President Obama gives in to his instincts and washes his hands of Iraq, then Al Qaeda will gain new life and Iran will grow even stronger. Iraq could descend into chaos and genocide, and politics in this country will be poisoned for a generation. 

I would hope that the readers of this post will take it as my humble, first contribution to a way forward. It's not the only way, but it is some highlights of what I see.

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