This is our truth, tell us yours
What’s a beltway story?
Try this one, about Hilary Clinton’s email server.
It’s a genuine why the fuck has this been written kind of story.Quite how a politician gets her emails should be a matter of intense ennui for most citizens. Britain fixed the problem of private email accounts and public information fifteen years ago. The USA should be able to do so too.
So why is Hilary Clinton’s email server a story?
Part of the Republican playbook for 2016 is to smear Hilary Clinton, the candidate they fear, as duplicitous and dishonest. So a beltway story about her email server is full of dogwhistles and attempts by Clinton supporters to rebutt them.
Politics is not about process. It’s about inputs and outputs, the value to the voter. If you focus on beltway stories, not outcomes, you’re saying that you value things the voter doesn’t value, or that you’re using the story as a proxy for a narrative you’re not willing to articulate openly.
A fine example of processology in the UK is, of course, the debate about the election debates. Labour has wounded the conservatives with its accusations of cowardice, but this on its own is not enough to win the election for Labour. A clear narrative about the values Labour represents is also central to any hope Labour is to have of winning in 2015.
We’re fans of Ed Miliband; he has played a shrewder game than many expected, and has got his party to within sight of the finishing line with the possibility of victory still in sight. His greatest achievement has been to avoid conflict with the Blairites within Labour who passionately wish Labour was the SDP, and who would rather Labour lost the election than they lose its internal debates. Miliband has to choose between continuing to pacify them, and choosing to claw back votes to his left, from the LibDems and the Greens with a value-heavy appeal to hearts and minds, as well as a tactical reminder that only Labour can keep out the Tories. At heart he must remember that at this stage of the campaign, no beltway story alone can win the election.
Incidentally, if Miliband wants advice from us here’s one suggestion. If you have a beltway story, link it to the real world in the way Clinton’s opponents have, by introducing the spectre of China and Chinese internet spying to the narrative.
Want an example? TTIP. If I were a Labour spin doctor today, I’d be feeding the press our view that Cameron has a point; three debates in which everyone except Cameron is hammering home the message that TTIP threatens the very principle of the NHS would indeed look unfair, and might cast Cameron as dogmatic, ideologically driven and uncaring of the outcomes for the average voter.
Miliband’s problem is that the Blairites to his right, like Alan Milburn, would hate such an approach, since they have sold their souls to the private medicine lobby that insists that the best way to provide universal health care is more rationing, less provision and fat dividends for shareholders. If he is to win, Miliband needs to decide whom he fears most; the voices to his right, or the abstentions to his left.