The US Presidential Primaries Lessons for Ghanaian politicians

Dr. Etse Sikanku, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Department of Communication Studies writes about the presidential primaries in the US and the keys things Ghana can learn from it.

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The US presidential primaries leading to the November 2016 polls will go down in US political history as of most  interesting campaigns ever, from Donald Trump's "unfiltered" mouth to Hillary Clinton's self collectedness.  However there some  things Ghana can learn from this heated presidential race;

The establishment doesn’t always win: the silent majority or the grassroots can sometimes upend the power brokers

Trump hypnotizes the media; Trump goes global; Trumpmania is the new Obamamania: Trump is no Obama but in terms of impact Trump clearly has the momentum in this cycle.  

Incivility and intemperate language is global: We have all now seen that caustic language in politics is not only the preserve of third world Africa.

All politics is local: If you think you can run a great national campaign without paying attention to detail and local issues, ask Marco Rubio.

Money palaver is everywhere but money doesn’t necessarily translate into votes.

Politics goes global: yes there is such a thing as political tourism. Despite all the commentary on the decline of American power, few national elections attract the kind of global attention America commands.

The media counts a big “biiiig” deal: For good or bad, you still can’t discount the media in this whole process. Right from campaign announcement, to the scrutiny, to the analysis, to the coverage, the media can make or unmake you. They’re gullible to sensation but they help moderate the debates too.

“Campaign in poetry; govern in prose”: you have to touch hearts. You have to communicate at voters’ level. Would Hillary Clinton make a great president? You betcha! Do people cry at her rallies? You don’t betcha! Does she struggle to craft lyrical, soothing, emotive and moving story lines to hit directly at people’s feelings ? You betacha again.

Authenticity counts: the Clinton example says it all.

Politics is not all-intellectual or all wonky: case in point, Rubio and Clinton

So much for endorsements: case in point, Rubio. This is a great lesson for those who over stress the endorsements. The great question in political studies has always been: do endorsements matter? This season gives us a certain kind of answer: not really. Marco had all the big time endorsements but he’s out of the race now. This should be a big lesson to politicians on the weight or magnitude to attach to political endorsements. My position here is that endorsements could bring attention and media coverage but it may not necessarily translate into votes.

Analysts are not soothsayers: It is possible to do analysis without predicting.

Voters are complex: You can give beautiful speeches, hire the greatest campaign people and have the biggest money machine but don’t ever think you know the electorate too well.

It’s all about the polls but even Nate Silver, the heralded polling aficionado, got Michigan wrong. God is the only all-knowing Supremo.

The winnowing process: media primary, polling primary, money primary and primary primary---they all matter.

Politics in America; it’s complicated: The rules can get very complex and the process keeps morphing from state to state. It’s interesting and exiting but gets downright messy sometimes.

Every year is different: In politics timing is everything. What may work in one cycle may not work in another. Look at the voting trends for Hillary and the fate of Rubio/Christie. Santorum was the winner of the Iowa caucuses the last time(2012), this season he was 12 out of 13 candidates. In fact only 1.0% of the population voted for him in 2016 compared to 24.6% in 2012. Similar scenario goes for Huckabee who won the caucuses in 2008 and in fact several others states and then came up 9 this year. They both had zero delegates.

So much for Iowa: every year Americans complain about Iowa, every year Iowans have their way anyway.

Debates: Americans certainly do love debating a whole lot. Helps to provide a level playing field but the best debaters don’t always win.

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