Friday, July 11, 2008

Power to the People

This election, arguably more than ever, the candidates are really trying to get to every voter. Recently and in separate speeches, Barack Obama has geared his words toward both women and blue-collar workers, groups with very different agendas. Every demographic category has been the target audience of at least one speech from both the Republican and Democratic candidates, thus giving each and every voter some level of power.

But why do the candidates do this? It's simple really. They need us. They cannot win without us. If you remember back to the days that you spent in school learning about democracy, that's the general idea. The candidates are designed to work for each and every vote. Therefore, an individual certainly has the power to effect an election. But, with enough people, their individual strength becomes a collective power which may draw a certain amount of recognition from political bodies.

Take, for instance, Hispanic voters in the upcoming election. Both candidates have been actively working for the votes of this demographic. Why? Mainly because they now make up a highly significant proportion of the American electorate and, let's be honest, our economy is growing more and more dependent on its workforce. Especially in states like Florida and California, if Hispanic voters align themselves with one particular candidate, it could mean victory in that state and an important boost in the Electoral College. Basically, strategists and politicians recognize the power of this key voting bloc so it is up to Hispanic voters as individuals to act on this recognition.

For the individual in general, this efficacy translates into aligning oneself with a group that he/she truly identifies with and doing what can be done to demonstrate that that group represents a set of voters which would be foolish to ignore, whether it is on a local or national scale. One way for groups with small numbers to do this is to latch onto one issue that is particularly important for them but also has more far-reaching significance. For example, African Americans have and continue to be extremely vocal on civil rights problems. By highlighting these issues, they connect their struggles to those of almost every other demographic, linking their issues to individuals unconnected to their cause. In so doing, they make their issues, everyone's issues and the effectiveness lies in the idea that outsiders will recognize that they can be somehow effected in the same way as the other group's members. If you think about it, this is exactly like rhetorical strategies used by politicians in passing legislation. Thought they represent only one vote, they talk about the goal they want to achieve in such a way that shows it to effect more than just him/herself and his/her constituents. Building support starts with building a personal connection to a cause. Showing that others have something to gain or lose by supporting or not supporting your cause gives you the power to frame how people will think about and act on your issue.


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