What if political strategy and tactics are far less important than the current debate about Republican fortunes implies? What if political outcomes are determined by particular media events–and reactions to them?
I’ve been kicking around a little theory I’ll call the theory of majority-making moments. Basically, it holds that new political majorities come together in response to events that almost everyone in society experiences in almost the same way–sometimes with the help of the media, and sometimes in spite of the media.
So, for example: George W. Bush did not have a majority (or even a popular victory) in 2000, but the events of 9/11 forged a new majority around the war on terror that even the controversy over Iraq could not fracture.
Likewise, Barack Obama did not have a winning majority in 2008, and was actually headed for possible defeat until the financial crash of mid-September caused everyone, including his opponent, to react (and panic).
The media can create a majority-making moment, as they did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which Bush did not mismanage as badly as they said, but which helped Democrats recover and build towards 2006.
The media can also suppress a potential majority-making moment, as they did during the Benghazi scandal of the fall of 2012, which ought to have triggered public outrage but which the media swept under the rug.
It is tough to predict what majority-making moments, if any, may emerge in Obama’s second term. Perhaps the easy money policy of the Federal Reserve and the deficit spending of the federal government will trigger a currency crisis (one hopes not, but it is a possibility). But until some external event shakes the perceptions of the American public, it may be that any new campaign tactics employed by Republicans will not be enough.