Hillary’s Social Strategy

A little over thirty months ago, I wrote a three-part article looking at social media as the ‘51st State‘ in US elections, and the importance it would play in the then-looming 2012 US presidential election.

Save Big BirdI won’t reiterate the entire article here, but suffice to say Obama had a much more targeted social engagement strategy with his grass-roots than Romney did, and this was a huge plank in both his 2008 and more so in his 2012 election victories. Do read the article if you have a moment, it even talks about Big Bird.

As we now enter the 2016 US presidential election cycle proper, with Hillary Clinton having thrown her hat into the ring, I looked at how Hillary Clinton’s influence is playing out across one particular social media platform: Twitter.

Hillary TBD...Hillary had teased us since setting up her Twitter profile, outlining all of her achievements to date in her biography and tantalising us with the inclusion of the TBD… at the end, so it was appropriate that she officially launched her campaign via this network, and innovative to tweet her announcement in both English and Spanish.

Hillary Announces

Using Twitter Counter, I’ve generated a chart showing Hillary’s tweets per day plotted against her total followers over the last three months (I’m not paying for the package!). It shows a continued and steady increase in followers, and very few tweets per day or week, up until around mid-April when something approaching a geological boundary-level event occurs and there is a significant increase in Hillary’s followers, and subsequent tweet activity.

Hillary Clinton Twitter over 3 months

Looking more closely at the period April 11th to April 15th, you can see that her followers increased by some 20,000 on the Saturday as people the world over awaited her announcement. On the day itself, Sunday 12th, a staggering 155,000 new followers started watching the future POTUS, with another 47,000 the day after.

Hillary Clinton Twitter announcement

Hillary Clinton Twitter daily average

One thing is certain: Twitter, and other social media, will once again play a critical role in this election, and this may well be a battleground that Mrs Clinton has already won.

Hillary’s High Stakes In 2020

You can't tell me these two never inhaled.

You can’t tell me these two never inhaled.

If you haven’t read part one, click here.

At this point, the neo-conservatives normally jump up and ask about the impact on children, and the millions of impressionable young folks that legalisation of cannabis would impress upon.

Unfortunately, this is an argument that has largely been lost, thanks in part to the campaign started under Nancy Reagan in 1982 to ‘just say no‘, which had the rather otherworldly feeling of being told off by a combination of kindly school matron and Commissioner Anabell Brumford from The Naked Gun franchise. The message didn’t resonate back then, and Nancy was widely parodied by those on the liberal left and amongst younger people in particular. It still doesn’t resonate now. A recent Buzzfeed article entitled ‘34 Questions Twentysomethings Have For Teens‘ asked the question of whether the ‘the general consensus that smoking is cool or gross‘? A lot of the answers were quick to condemn tobacco, but then were between mildly ambivalent to wildly enthusiastic about weed, with only a few lonesome dissenters. Many said smoking weed was “cool” or “something everyone did”, or others commented that they did not smoke weed themselves but knew friends who did.

34 Questions Twentysomethings Have For Teens

This is deeply worrying for people on both sides of the wider legalisation of cannabis issue: although alcohol is legal with age-restrictions, there are very few who would be keen to see 13 year-olds thinking getting drunk was ‘cool’. Doing a quick search on Buzzfeed under the tags ‘weed‘ and ‘marijuana‘ throws up a host of news stories and articles that glorify and celebrate smoking cannabis, with little else.

Celebrating Cannabis

There is some good news though.

Studies have shown that alcohol consumption and tobacco usage amongst teenagers in the UK are both declining trends, largely thanks to the tight regulation of usage, sale and possession, and the vast amounts of public & private money spent on health and awareness campaigns. The same efforts could be made on public health campaigns and awareness of cannabis as is expended over tobacco and alcohol.


Weed Arrests

Like in the prohibition of alcohol from 1920 to 1933 in America, cannabis usage is never going to disappear, and criminalisation will only continue to funnel money from the taxpayer to the underworld whilst tying up public money, police and judicial time and filling the prisons with (mostly) black Americans in an endless war on drugs.

In 2010, 52 per cent of all drug arrests in the States were for marijuana, with seven million people arrested for possession that decade. Nationally, blacks are about four times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis possession – although this rate varies wildly at a state-level.

Source: ACLU

Source: ACLU

Wars on nouns very rarely achieve anything: is the world any safer after George Bush’s Coalition of the Willing launched its ‘war on terror’? [note: that is not a comment on the wider, and vital, fight against extremism and those who seek to attack us at home or abroad]. Is it not a more progressive solution – for libertarians on the liberal and conservative side who don’t want the government regulating their bodies – to legalise, tax, set restrictions, and educate?

The expectation is that several more states will more towards legalisation in the next two years. Massachusetts has an initiative to end cannabis prohibition and regulate weed in the same fashion as alcohol; California is moving towards full legalisation in 2016; there are similar trends in Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Arizona and, surprisingly, Missouri. California represents one of the world’s largest economies all on its own, and if cannabis is legalised, it will have a dramatic effect across the country. It is also expected that yet more states will further extend their permissive cannabis laws between the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections. If, as expected, Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and the White House in 2016 and, if the Democrats can win back either the Senate or the House or both in-between, then the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2020 (Hillary!) would be in a strong position to run on a platform of ending the war on drugs (on cannabis).

Heck, she might even win back a majority of the youth GOP vote… and that would be a fundamental shift in US politics the likes of which have not been seen since Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

Tax, Tax, Pass | Legalisation Is Coming

As folks the world over celebrate 4/20, let’s take a look at the changes to cannabis legislation and public perception across the US. States have been changing their approach to weed rapidly in recent years:

  • four states have legalised marijuana completely (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington);
  • ten states have legalised medicinal sales and decriminalised possession (California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont);
  • Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Ohio have also decriminalised possession;
  • Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New Mexico have legalised medicinal usage and sales only.
State and territorial laws about cannabis in the United States (via en.wikipedia.org)

State and territorial laws about cannabis in the United States
(via en.wikipedia.org)

A total of 28 states plus D.C. have liberalised their cannabis laws, meaning the balance has definitely swung against the remaining 22 states. It’s no real surprise that most of these states that moved toward legalisation are on the east and west coasts, whilst the more conservative hold-outs are in traditional “flyover territory”. At a national level, a growing proportion of the public now support legalisation – 53 per cent of Americans would support weed being made legal, compared with just 12 per cent when the question was asked back in 1969. Many public figures have now openly admitted the have smoked weed in the past (Sarah Palin, Martha Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, George W Bush (and every subsequent president), and many more influential people including politicians, Supreme Court justices, entertainers and, entrepreneurs. Others have said that they still do smoke pot, including Whoopi Goldberg, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Aniston, Willie Nelson, Bill Maher, Seth Rogen, and One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik. Even more have said to be “evolving” their position on the issue in favour of legalisation, a list that includes Elizabeth Warren, Bill Clinton, Cory Booker, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Rick Perry..! Probably the first and last time Perry’s name will appear on such an august list.

Interestingly, there is some agreement between the political factions on the question of legalisation, although there is still a gulf between the two. 63 per cent of all Democrats support legalisation, compared to 39 per cent of Republicans and 58 per cent of independents. There is, however, a clear generational divide as overwhelmingly 70 per cent of young people aged 18-29 think weed should be legal, whilst only 32 per cent of those aged 65 and over agree. Six-in-ten (63 per cent) of GOP Millennials say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while Democrats overall are more enthusiastic supporters, with three-in-four (77 per cent) of Democratic Millennials favouring legal marijuana use. Across every generational divide, Democrats show higher support than Republicans on this issue. As these young generations replace those above them, and still further acceptance emerges in the generations that come after, the trend is surely one-way and irreversible. So the question is, will this next decade be the final death-knell for this new prohibition? Globally, we spend in excess of $100 billion on the war on drugs, a war that has been waged for over fifty years with limited to no success. Now, this is not an advocation for a full liberalisation of the drug law in the US (nor anywhere else!), but a simple recognition that the medical evidence that cannabis is any more harmful that tobacco or alcohol is not there, and its medical benefits are proven. Even the US government, which maintains cannabis as a Schedule I item on the Controlled Substances Act (defined to mean that cannabis has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States), has taken out patents on cannabis products. Take US Patent 6630507 titled ‘Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants‘ which was taken out by the Department of Health and Human Services, stating that cannabis is useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. What is clear however is that the market in the US for cannabis is between $35 and $45 billion, and assuming comparable taxes to tobacco of 40-50% (excise and sales tax), a $40 billion weed market would yield $16-20 billion in taxes.

Continued in Part Two, where we look at the social impact of cannabis and whether the war on drugs is really working with young people. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

[Part Two – Hillary’s High Stakes In 2020]

Register to vote | Beat apathy

There now follows a non-party non-political broadcast from the United Kingdom​.

You have until Monday 20th April to register to vote in the UK General Election 2015​, three days from now. The way we register to vote has changed, and there is now a system called ‘Individual Voter Registration‘ – this means that each person has to register to vote separately, rather than the previous system as a whole household.

It’s really quick, and takes less than three minutes online. All you need is your name, address, date of birth, and National Insurance number. You can also choose to go on either the ‘open’ register (available for anyone to purchase) or the ‘full’ register (which is not publicly available).

Voting, aside from being a right that previous generations have fought and died for, is a civic duty in society. There are no excuses – if you don’t like any of the options, then vote for “none of the above” by spoiling your ballot. There’s an article from The Debrief​ that explains why it is more effective than not voting.

Your vote matter!

Your vote matter!

#beatapathy – register to vote here.

Fired up, ready to go?

Just over a year ago I wrote that, whilst Hillary had yet to formally announce her candidacy or even suggest that she would declare an interest in running for president again, the Democratic base was “fired up, ready to go” in support of their presumptive nominee. The heiress to the Obama throne had the super PACs Organizing For Action and Ready For Hillary campaigning and fundraising ahead of Mrs Clinton’s eventual declaration on the 12th April and – like it or not, Biden or not – Hillary continues to lead in the polls. Some of the strategists from these super PACs have moved over to the official Hillary for America campaign, most notably Ready for Hillary co-founder and former Clinton staffer Adam Parkhomenko.

However, this base was not as fired up nor as ready to go as many had widely expected. At the end of May last year I was considering the impact on the 2016 US presidential election in two scenarios: a) if only 18-29 year-olds could vote, and b) if only those 65 years and older could vote. Both scenarios were fascinating, with the Democrats carrying 466 electoral college votes in the 18-29 year-old scenario to the Republicans’ 72, whereas in the 65 and over scenario the Republicans carried 398 votes to the 140 votes of the Democrats.

Scenario 'A'

Scenario ‘A’

Scenario 'B'

Scenario ‘B’

An interesting point to note here is that the Democrats carry the youth vote much more substantially than the Republicans carry the older vote. There has long been a trend in this age grouping towards more small ‘d’ democratic principles (and libertarianism), which is difficult to find a foothold amongst the Republican Party due to the coupling of small-government values with small-town conservatism; an anathema to a growing proportion of 18-29 year-olds.

It isn’t a surprise that even young Democrats couldn’t take Idaho, Utah and Wyoming – given that these are the most Republican of Republican states with 57.8, 63.8, and 56.6% of folks in those states identifying as Republican, respectively. Nor is it particularly surprising that the other last bastion of Republican support is in the Deep South; not since Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy‘ have these states trended Democrat.

As I speculated at the time, the concern looking ahead to the 2014 US midterm elections was that if ever the Democrats needed a ‘get out the vote’ push, it was right then. Congressional candidates needed to find policy platforms to stand on which would attract the youth vote to them, and had to ensure that this base of voters was as energised and “fired up, ready to go” as they were for Barack Obama’s inaugural election year. If not, then Hillary Clinton’s job for 2016 would be all that much harder.. and President Obama would be left as a lame duck for the remainder of his presidency.

Whilst 21.5% of young people, aged 18-29, voted in the 2014 midterm elections, this only represented 13% of the total votes cast by the electorate. Overall, young voters in 2014 favoured Democratic Congressional candidates over Republicans. For example, according to the national exit poll data on House races, youth aged 18-29 preferred Democratic candidates by 55% to 42%. Young voters also backed Democratic candidates in most Senate races (with the obvious exceptions of the states above). Thanks to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement for this.

When I revisited the theme of Obama’s campaign message a couple of months into 2015 and how it related to Hillary’s 2016 presidential run, I made a couple of observations. Firstly, there are still those eighteen million cracks in that glass ceiling and, to steal the Obama phrase, the Democratic base is fired up and ready to go under a Clinton banner. A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed support for Hillary at 73% amongst those voters who identify with the Democratic Party, with Joe Biden trailing far behind on 12% and Elizabeth Warren, who has categorically ruled out running in 2016, on 8%. I’ve expanded extensively on Hillary’s polling data previously, but suffice to say it seems inevitable that she will be the front-runner amongst women with a consistent polling advantage of 61 percent. Secondly, that the Clinton campaign will coalesce around the idea that a second President Clinton, at this stage in her life, could act as a ‘Grandmother to the Nation'; a maternal matriarch, the saviour of her people.

We’re still waiting for the impact of Hillary’s announcement to settle down in the polling data, so watch this space over the next couple of weeks… it’ll be interesting to see how the “Iowa van trip” has gone down with voters in that state, and how her new “folksy” message is resonating..