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permanent campaign

The term “permanent campaign” was first coined by Sidney Blumenthal in his 1980 book, The Permanent Campaign.

The book explained how the breakdown in political parties forced politicians to govern in different ways. Instead of relying on patronage and party machines, politicians increasingly used political consultants to help them monitor their job approval numbers and media exposure.

The permanent campaign refers to the idea that politicians and political organizations are always in campaign mode, even when they are not actively running for office.

However, the theory of the permanent campaign is also credited to political strategist Patrick Caddell who wrote a memo for President-elect Jimmy Carter just after his election in 1976 in which he asserted “governing with public approval requires a continuing political campaign.”

As Time explained:

Thus Caddell gave a name — the permanent campaign — to a political mind-set that had been developing since the beginning of the television age. It has proved a radical change in the nature of the presidency. Every President since Lyndon Johnson has run his Administration from a political consultant’s eye view.

Untold millions have been spent on polling and focus groups. Dick Morris even asked voters where Bill Clinton should go on vacation. The pressure to “win” the daily news cycle — to control the news — has overwhelmed the more reflective, statesmanlike aspects of the office.

The permanent campaign is often associated with the rise of modern political consulting and the professionalization of political campaigns.

Political consultants and campaign strategists have developed sophisticated techniques for identifying and mobilizing voters, as well as for raising funds and shaping public opinion.

These techniques have become an integral part of the political process, and are used by politicians and campaigns even when they are not actively running for office.

The permanent campaign has had a number of negative consequences for American politics.

Some argue that the focus on constant campaigning has led to a more polarized and partisan political environment, as politicians are more focused on appealing to their base and attacking their opponents than on working together to find common ground and solve problems.

Others say that the permanent campaign has led to a decline in the quality of governance, as politicians are more focused on securing their own re-election than on serving the public interest.

Examples of “permanent campaign” in a sentence

  • The permanent campaign has led to a decline in the quality of governance, as politicians are more focused on securing their own re-election than on serving the public interest.
  • The rise of the permanent campaign has made it difficult for politicians to work together and find common ground on important issues.
  • The permanent campaign has changed the way that politicians and political parties operate, with a greater emphasis on fundraising and mobilization efforts.

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