Sunday, January 29, 2006

Playing to Your Constituency 

From a PR perspective, the argument among Democrats whether to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court candidate Samuel Alito is interesting. It is a question of publics. What publics are Democrats addressing? There seem to be two groups. One is a liberal constituency that abhors the idea of Alito getting on the court. The other appears to be a broader mass of citizens who vote in nearing elections. And, as happens in such cases, the interests of the two publics might not coincide.

Does one automatically take the interest of the majority over that of the minority? In the opinion of Senators Kennedy, Kerry and Clinton, one does not. Does one go along, even though the outcome is unhappy? In the opinion of Senators Harry Reid and Charles Schumer, one does. Regrettably for the Democrat party, the outcome of the argument will make both sides look silly should Republicans have the votes to put Alito in office -- and by all accounts, they do.

There is a time for argumentation. There is a time to stand even when one knows the outcome is ordained. But, one must choose those times with care. The Democrats had painted themselves into a corner with this nomination through overly aggressive questioning (that some liberals said wasn't aggressive enough). Continued opposition looks futile and out of touch with reality. On the other hand, the Democrats' fear is understandable.

Where is the line between good and bad PR? There is no certainty in situations like this. One has to use judgment and a feel for public perception. Sometimes one is right in the long run, and sometimes embarrassingly wrong.

It's an interesting PR case to observe.


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