Before Rove, Atwater

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There was a statement that caught my attention as I rode through museumplein in the middle of the night recently, listening to the latest edition of On the Media.  They were talking about the late republican strategist Lee Atwater, who Ive always remembered as the guy who trained George HW Bush in 88 to stand up straight to look tough in debates, and use divisive attack ads to destroy his opponent.  The item was about his legacy, and it was interesting to hear a specialist on his life and work talk about how he had been friends with Karl Rove and championed the playing upon people’s fears in a political campaign.

At one point they mention that many people saw what came after Atwater as a marketing of a candidate using sophisticated polling and focus groups. Something that would later be championed by the Clinton campaigns and set the pace for the next decade.  But they added that this most recent election, might have signified a return to a more grassroots direct-to-the people style politics.

All this reminded me of Century of the Self, Adam Curtis’s excellent documentary, which now more than ever deserves to be watched.  One can only hope an update will come soon.

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