What the Media Gets Wrong About Political Campaigns - Voice of San Diego

Kevin Faulconer

What the Media Gets Wrong About Political Campaigns

This week’s podcast features political insiders from both ends of the spectrum to dig into what we’re screwing up.

VOSD Radio co-hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts brought on two special guests for this week’s podcast to air some politically engaged grievances.

Ryan Clumpner, chief of staff for Republican Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, and Lucas O’Connor, a Democrat and former director of strategic communications for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, both have said the media doesn’t know anything about how campaigns work.

In light of Tuesday’s election results, we decided to get it out in the open and find out what exactly the city’s news outlets are doing wrong, as well as what they’ve seen in the changing tides of San Diego politics. Below are a few takeaways from Clumpner and O’Connor’s appearance.

Endorsements from within the party are actually relevant.

O’Connor: “It’s easy to dismiss those as just, that’s what Democrats do, but especially in an election like this, where it’s a special election, it’s low-turnout in general, Democrats in the city already have a problem getting their base to turn out … Bringing in those people is a way to activate a base that might be exhausted from all those special elections, but also might generally be people that aren’t engaged at the local level, but are interested in state politics or national politics. So if you get a (San Antonio Mayor) Julian Castro in town, they might pay attention to that in a way that they wouldn’t pay attention to another event for (San Diego mayoral candidate) David Alvarez.”

‘Getting out the vote’ doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Clumpner: “Getting out the vote is primarily a logistical function. … All campaigns you’ve seen in the last few years in particular end up doing these events that are sign-waving. That’s primarily just for the purpose of the media, because the media says, ‘We want to show you getting out the vote.’ You need an actual visual there. What they’re actually doing to get out the vote isn’t really very sexy to display. There isn’t a lot there to see. It’s a very nuts-and-bolts kind of activity… Waving signs has no impact on voter turnout. What does have an impact on voter turnout is what kind of face you’re putting forward on TV.”

Unions might not have as much sway in local elections.

Clumpner: “I think that one of the lessons for this race is that the type of hardline labor campaign does not have as much appeal with San Diego voters as a lot of folks may think that it does … If you look at why certain people turned out in higher numbers or lower numbers, you have to get down to whether they felt inspired or motivated or thought it was necessary to turn out.”

And the team on the left is in a tough spot otherwise.

O’Connor: “That base on the left that is particularly difficult to turnout are generally people that are detached from politics for a variety of reasons. They don’t speak the language, they don’t have the time in the day because they are working two jobs, they just generally haven’t seen themselves reflected in the political discussion and that just becomes a vicious cycle, right? Because they don’t turnout they still don’t see themselves, and so they don’t turnout the next time. That’s the long-term organizing challenge that we face, certainly in a place like San Diego where there is such a large population of relatively new people that haven’t built up long standing ties to the communities at the local level yet. That’s just long-term work that has to be done and its happening, but it’s not there yet.”

Download the rest of the episode below to hear more on the election, including the changing brands of both parties, and what Clumpner and O’Connor expect to see out of mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer.

Download Audio

Ana Ceballos contributed to this post.

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