If you think the big story of the Presidential election season was the relative lack of change in power – Democrats retained the White House and the Senate and Republicans held the House – then you’re not into extrapolating statistics and trends. Thankfully for you, we are, and, with that, we will make the following blanket contention: the shift in American political trends that began in 2008 and continued in 2012 will shape the future of our country dramatically over the next several generations.
It would be easy to say that this shift is strictly limited to demographics as James Carville posited a few days after the election, as well as in his 2009 book, 40 More Years, co-authored with Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza. But we think there’s a greater confluence of variables at work here of which demography is but one.
To consider the electorate (and the election) of 2012 as merely a shifting of races and voting blocs fails to take into account the real and meaningful impact of both cultural and economic shifts brought about by the engagement economy. And any conversation about the impact of the engagement economy has to factor in the concept of creative destruction and the notion of a “Warhol Economy.”
2013 will be about finding the signs that will forever change us by what type of future “we” can collectively imagine – to “creatively destruct” the former order of things in favor of new templates based on accelerated and concentrated ways of sharing and communicating. The engagement economy has expedited this transformation and, thanks to the access it provides emerging voting blocs like Latinos, for example, has irrevocably altered the volume with which these populations can communicate. It has also eased the barriers to forming coalitions and clustering core constituencies around specific ideologies.
These new mediums of connection, collaboration, communication and engagement will be driven by a level of informed insight never before seen that will translate into more real, palpable and meaningful experiences. And, like the consumer sectors, data will drive this transformation in the political sector. As noted in the Washington Post about a week after the election, the detailed repository of voter information the Obama machine compiled over this past election cycle has set the standard for political data collection for elections to come. To the Democrats in particular, but relevant to both parties, this is a highly coveted artifact that not only provides a blueprint for mid-term campaigning in 2014 but sets the gold standard for looking at data in new and interesting ways that allow for maximum message distribution alongside hyper-focused targeting, tailored for clusters of voters that are tied geographically, ideologically and, perhaps more important, economically.
These clusters will grow in importance with regard to political outcomes, much in the same way Detroit served as the catalyst for the auto industry and Andy Warhol’s “Factory” served as the focal point for most of the east coast art, music and film scene in the late 1960’s. Projecting such clustered cultural movements onto commerce and culture is precisely what the Warhol Economy represents; a nexus of art, music, performance and the like that is considered the “culture industry.” Surely, if the larger definition of “culture industry” represents the expression of a society on many different levels of cultural significance, than political expression and the way we choose to govern ourselves and the interaction of those two variables should be included in any discussion of the America’s political future.
At the heart of this discussion is the way people interact and, more importantly, the way they choose to interact in the coming decades and a how that interaction will activate in the voting booth. Our guess is, given the ease with which people can now associate, share information, be part of meaningful clusters and drive change through the use of expedient communication and massive data accumulation, our political system will look more Orwell than Vonnegut in the very near future.