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The Role of Ideas in Political Campaigns

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by Ron McNinch, University of Guam

At their very essence, political campaigns in democratic societies are communications processes. Candidates are seeking to get you, the voters, to remember them and act in a way that benefits them. This means they need your votes.

It is really a myth that political candidates can do favors for you. Actually, all good politicians need you to do favors for them. For example, they need to ask you for funds, they need to ask you for support and mostly they need to ask you for votes. Because the resources any given politician has are very limited, this is a very lopsided process. They receive far more favors than they are able to give out. The excellent book "Hardball" by Chris Matthews goes into detail on this point.

One thing politicians can give freely is their opinions and ideas.  When candidates communicate, you either agree or disagree with them. In the opinion realm, this is a very give and take process, we hardly ever agree or disagree with everything a person says. So the goal for opinions is to look for balance or the middle. We can tolerate a little disagreement with politicians, this is expected. But if a candidate tells us only what they think we want to hear, we become suspicious.

Ideas are different though. New ideas, even from old politicians, can really tie a campaign room together like a good rug. New ideas can inspire and challenge the status quo. It is far easier for those on the outside to come up with new ideas than those on the inside. On Guam, we love to talk about problems, but solutions are really the ideas that people pay attention to. As the campaign communication process progresses in the nest few weeks, the center of talk past the primary will be new ideas and solutions.

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