Permanent campaign

“While much scholarly attention was paid to the Blair government, a decade earlier an American-based literature emerged based on the related concept of the ‘permanent campaign’. Sidney Blumenthal’s 1982 book of the same name examines what happens to the campaign tactics of ‘spin’ once a candidate has won office. Blumenthal’s (1982) central argument is that ‘[u]nder the permanent campaign, governing is turned into a perpetual campaign. Moreover, it makes government into an instrument designed to sustain an elected officials’ public popularity’ (p. 23). The citizenry, Blumenthal argues, ‘is viewed as a mass of fluid voters who can be appeased by appearances, occasional drama and clever rhetoric. Campaigning never ends’ (p. 24). Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann (2000: 224) acknowledge that the permanent campaign is here to stay, but warn of its detrimental effects on the process of governing, where, unlike campaigning, negotiation and coalition building are prized. Similarly, they point out that the excessive media focus on the ‘horse race’ aspect of elections is now being transferred to media coverage of government with the focus on who is winning rather than the stakes or choices involved (p. 221).”

(McKnight, 2016: 109-10)

McKnight, D. 2016. The Rudd Labor government and the limitations of spin. Media International Australia, Vol. 159 (1), pp.108-117.

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