2012 was, by any historical measure, a tumultuous year in politics and public policy. As the presidential and congressional campaigns evolved, clearly defined differences between parties and ideologies were front and center.
The American people voted, and along with a decisive victory by President Barack Obama, we gave tepid support to continued divided government. What can we learn from the election and the past year in politics and public policy? What does this mean for the public affairs business? Here's a look ahead.
Look for the Republican Party's continued decline in the polls and for its tenuous hold on the House majority to further weaken throughout 2013.
The Republican brand is in decline. The party is seen as out of touch with independents and middle class voters, speaking to an increasingly narrow constituency. Party leaders argue that their 2012 failures were more the result of political miscalculations than policy failures. Yet, it is policy positions on the budget, taxes, abortion, guns, immigration, women's issues, gay rights, and others that slowly eroded the brand and the candidates who embraced it. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that the Republican Party is now viewed negatively by 65% of voters; with words like “bad,” “weak,” “lost,” and “wilderness” most often used to describe the party. There's no evidence as we end 2012 that Republicans have learned any policy or political lessons from the elections.
The 2012 election also provided some evidence that the Tea Party is being roundly rejected. The most compelling evidence comes from the losses suffered by Tea Party candidates in the US Senate races.
President Obama will continue to enjoy broad public support, but difficulty on nearly every front with Congress, as he navigates the nation through a continued and more robust recovery.
In 2013, dealing with the deficit will continue to dominate the business of Congress. That's good news for public affairs and lobby shops, of course, as tax reform, budget cuts, and entitlement programs all require an unprecedented amount of lobbying and public affairs support.
Immigration reform will pass Congress by a wide margin and be signed into law by the president – Why? See No. 1 above.Guns and violence will be on the agenda, and there will be progress, but the National Rifle Association's influence and rural state culture will prevent “meaningful” solutions to the violence in Newtown.
Social media will continue to empower millions of individuals to be “iAdvocates.” Every citizen already has the power to organize and create social media communities to push for policy outcomes on the Hill and in agencies. Increasingly, citizens are finding new ways to increase their voices and breakthrough the Washington policy clutter, to be heard.
The center of gravity for public affairs will continue to shift to states, as public policy debates and political activity continue to migrate there.
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, especially health exchanges, and Medicaid funding shortfalls, will continue to make healthcare ground zero in public policy and politics. Public affairs shops with state policy and advocacy capabilities are already reporting growth in new and organic business.
Fully integrated lobbying campaigns will increasingly use microtargeting and large campaign databases to create sophisticated models that assign activist scores to every American on top public policy issues. In this new micro targeted world, lobbying efforts will be supercharged by these constituent advocates, recruited from specific Zip Codes and linked to issues.
Lane Bailey is founder and CEO of Advocom Group, with offices in Washington DC and New York. Bailey had served as chief of staff to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) for more than two decades.