Did you know the White House invented marketing?

Did you know the White House invented marketing?

by digby

This piece by Brian Beutler is a fascinating analysis of Obama's "permission structure" and specifically how the White House sees itself reaching a Grand Bargain with the Republicans.  There are so many moving parts it's hard to keep it all straight which is also why I think it may be just a tad ambitious --- any political strategy that depends upon dozens of pieces falling exactly the way you want them to is better considered a pipe dream.

Anyway, the plan seems to revolve around getting a few Republicans that other Republicans trust to sign on and then let them sell the Grand Bargain to the troops. Ezra describes it this way:
The now-famous term comes, as far as I can tell, from a 2008 profile of David Axelrod in the New Republic, where Jason Zengerle quoted Ken Snyder, a Democratic consultant and Axelrod protege, on his mentor’s approach. “David felt there almost had to be a permission structure set up for certain white voters to consider a black candidate.” The “permission structure” relied heavily on “third-party authentication,” which is to say, endorsements from respected figures or institutions that the targeted voters admired.

If you think back to the 2008 campaign, you can see Axelrod slowly building this permission structure around Obama. Right before Super Tuesday, Axelrod rolled out the endorsements of Ted and Caroline Kennedy. Right before the election, he rolled out Colin Powell. The timing and nature of the endorsements were meant to make an African American candidate with an international upbringing and the name Barack Hussein Obama into someone that Ohio steelworkers could feel comfortable voting for. If Ted Kennedy and Colin Powell can back this guy, so can you.

At his news conference this week, President Obama trotted the idea out again, this time in reference to negotiating with congressional Republicans. “We’re going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to be able to do what’s going to be best for the country.”
I guess this is supposed to be some kind of original and exiting new concept, but the truth is a little bit more prosaic.  The "permission structure" is nothing more than a common sales technique called "influencer marketing" something that marketing majors learn in their first year of junior college:
Influencer marketing, (also Influence Marketing) is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers. 
Influencers may be potential buyers themselves, or they may be third parties. These third parties exist either in the supply chain (retailers, manufacturers, etc.) or may be so-called value-added influencers (such as journalists, academics, industry analysts, professional advisers, and so on).

The first approach to that theory comes from a communication's classic "The people´s choice", a Lazerfeld and Katz 1940 study on political communication that was also known as Multistep flow model, that claims that the majority of people are influenced by secondhand information and opinion leaders.
We used to call it "validator marketing" as well. But never let anything as prosaic as marketing 101 get in the way of Obama campaign hagiography. They invented the wheel, we all know that.

Anyway, the point of the article is that the White House is still determined to pursue their Grand Bargain and they've come up with a supposedly "new" plan to get Republicans on board (and apparently steamroll the Democrats into cutting their own throats.) But the legislative strategy is extremely complicated, as Beutler's post describes in dizzying detail, so even if they can get their "validators" to run with the Grand Bargain, getting it to a vote is a truly daunting task.

Good luck with all that. Maybe the Tea Partiers all listen to Tom Coburn and Lindsay Graham and will do whatever they say, but I doubt it. They just aren't as lemming-like as their rivals across the aisle.

The again, you never know ...