Politics, Policy & Media campaigns, elections and communications

Lessons from Mapping the American Left


This is a hugely interesting paper that neatly lays out the contours of the modern left moment in America. From a leftist political perspective, the entire paper is worth reading. However, in the initial sections of it, there were two things that were particularly interesting to me professionally:

  • An insight into how elements of the Occupy movement was co-opted by the liberal mainstream.
  • How attacks on the liberal mainstream from the right hindered the emergence of a left movement.

Here’s what can be learnt from this in terms of political tactics from the perspective of centre parties. As I will be linking this to the recent constitutional coup in Sri Lanka, a background about that is required. The key relevant aspects of it are:

  • There was a concentrated and sustained backlash to the coup by a number of elements, including the legal fraternity, parts of the media (especially independent online outlets), civil society and the urban middle-class.
  • This backlash took the form of insisting on the restoration/continuation of the pre-Coup government (which widely regarded as unpopular and had recently suffered from defeats in local government elections).
  • The usurped government seeming deliberately using the same language and framing as the wider resistance to the coup and made the issue about constitutionality, not party politics.

These can be linked to the two elements mentioned initially:

  • By co-opting the language of resistance, a mainstream party can cloak itself and project the values of the zeitgeist. From a realpolitik perspective, this can be done without necessarily adopting these values.
  • Actions by opponents can be framed as attacks on civil society and wider values. This provides a layer of protection to the party and allows them to integrate non-party elements into their toolkit.

More generally, for parties aspiring to the centre, it is important to monitor and understand the movements to their flanks. The movements (which are often more ideologically driven and free of the constraints of party politics) can provide fertile ground for harvesting both communication content and allies.

About the author

Rajit Hewagama
Rajit Hewagama

A highly experienced digital strategist, with an extensive background in social media marketing and e-commerce and has served as an online communications strategist for national level political and cause-based

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Rajit Hewagama By Rajit Hewagama
Politics, Policy & Media campaigns, elections and communications