Day 7 was a jam-packed and exciting day on Operation Stop Trump. We met with digital campaign company Revolution Messaging, Antoine Ripoll, the Director of the European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress and author-journalist Thomas Frank.
A highlight of the delegation for me was meeting Revolution Messaging which has lived up to its name and been truly revolutionary this campaign season in their incredible work running Bernie Sanders’ social media campaign.
The team shared many key insights with our delegation. These included the importance of early and strategic advertising, such as running ads on search engines when people type in specific terms, to allow money to grow. Revolution Messaging stressed how crucial it is to better use data to increase engagement.
Despite being a digital campaign company, staff acknowledged the crucial reason for Bernie’s popularity was he ran an issues-based campaign, capturing the zeitgeist by raising issues around economic inequality, student debt and healthcare. Medicaid is a popular government program so Bernie Sanders’ campaign campaigned on the idea of ‘Medicaid for All’ as opposed to universal healthcare which has negative connotations for many Americans.
A small but significant difference between Bernie and Hillary’s campaign was that Bernie’s emails to supporters were issue-based and only asked for money at the end whereas Hillary’s were the opposite.
Bernie being so focussed and consistent on the issues was very damaging to Hillary’s campaign as that is her Achilles’ heel, she is widely perceived as flip-flopping on many important issues, including Black Lives Matter and TPP.
Bernie’s authenticity is seen as one of the major reasons for his success and Revolution Messaging were able to successfully reinforce that image by using lo-fi and gritty imagery and graphics as opposed to Hillary’s slick campaign.
Revolution Messaging emphasised the fact Bernie’s campaign was organic- the slogan #FeelTheBern- was generated by supporters not the campaign as opposed to Hillary’s slogan, #ImWithHer which came directly from her campaign. Bernie’s imagery was also easy to memeify. However Revolution Messaging was able to harness this organic support into a cohesive digital campaign strategy.
We discussed at the meeting the enthusiasm gap faced by Hillary’s campaign and how many young women are nonplussed about the fact Hillary has the potential to be the first woman President. We agreed this was because women are not a monolithic voting block and are equally concerned about a variety of issues, and on some of these issues they prefer Bernie’s stance.
The most significant lesson we can all take away from Bernie Sanders’ campaign is that you can raise vast amounts of money from small donors. Revolution Messaging said they were able to do this by creating a sense of ownership with the campaign. The campaign was seen as a Them Vs US investment and a way of standing up to Corporate Greed as well as a chance to be part of something bigger than yourself. It wasn’t about Bernie or his personal ambition.
Another key tactic was playing up Bernie’s underdog status by using local media to create an authentic voice (local news is the most trusted news source).
There are many parallels between Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn- and following Bernie’s campaign tactics is something Labour could replicate and possibly translate into electoral success.
After a quick lunch at Bobby’s Burger Palace we headed to our meeting with Antoine Ripoll, who heads the European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress. We were all eager to hear his thoughts on Brexit and possible ways for Britain to move forward. Whilst acknowledging the gravity of Brexit, calling it a Berlin Wall moment, Mr Ripoll stated the EU is a political project not a jail and so nobody has to continue to be in it and was optimistic about Britain’s ability to work with the EU. He noted since WWII, the elites have controlled the political system and Brexit and the rise of Trump were signs people would not heed the advice of the establishment anymore.
Later in the afternoon we visited author-journalist Thomas Frank at his home. We focussed on why Trump is appealing to white working class voters. Frank has written two critically-acclaimed books, ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ and ‘Listen, Liberal’ which look at why the Democrats are losing the support of white working class people. We found Frank’s observations fascinating as there are many parallels and lessons to be learned for Labour –winning back traditional white working class voters is something Labour needs to do if it is to win power again.
All in all, it was an amazing day and we felt privileged to meet with such incredible people.