An Interview with Michael Cornfield

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Michael Cornfield

What Political Management is Not

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Another way to look at this is to think of political management as a professional campaign school. Now, why do you need professionals to conduct campaigns? Ever since Ancient Greece, politicians have been conducting campaigns, largely on the basis of their own passions, their own thoughts, their own intuitions and with the help of a few friends, and a lot of supporters, or followers. Today, however, leaders, politicians need specialized help. They need specialized help putting the leaders and followers together in productive ways. Why? Because in a digital world communication comes much faster and from more voices and a more diverse set of voices. That requires specialized help. Issues are more complicated than they used to be. There’s a great deal of technical, scientific detail that has to be distilled into language that your public’s and the general population is capable of understanding if a campaign is to succeed. Third, alliances shift. The alliance or coalition you build on behalf of your campaign, the alliance on behalf of the opponent’s campaign, and lots of groups and ideas and interests in the undecided middle. Whereas, you might be able to get away with running a campaign for office or a campaign to get a proposal enacted into law with five or a dozen people, today you need hundreds, if not thousands. And somebody has to coordinate the activities of the principles with the supporters, with the donors, with the followers. Someone has to keep track of the technical details. That’s what political managers do. Close X

What Do Political Managers Do?

How to apply the program to history

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Let me outline in broad brushstrokes what the sequence of knowledge and skills that we want to impart to you in this program. You can look at a syllabus and look at the comparable syllabi in our on campus program for more details. The first thing we want you to learn is how to apply history to current situations. One of the ways in which we get a handle on a fast, complicated, multi-vocal, shifting political situation, so that we can devise a strategy and help someone run a campaign to accomplish something in one of these situations is to look to history. There is a parallel to almost everything that happens: In the past, of the same country, or city; in a neighboring city or country. And what we teach you to do in Fundamentals of Political Management and in the early aspects of other courses, is how to identify the key characteristics of a political situation and then do quick research to find a historical parallel, and then how to draw the similarities, and just as importantly, the differences, between the campaign of the past or the campaign in another area/another jurisdiction and the campaign you’re going to be working on. Close X

The 4 M’s: Money, Message, Mobilization, and Measurement

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So once you’ve sort of developed a appreciation for how to extract useful political knowledge from history, we move you into the specialties. And I like to refer to the specialties of political management in terms of the 4 Ms: Money, Message, Mobilization, and Measurement. Money: Obviously campaigns can’t work without money. But since campaigns are semi-spontaneous ad hoc organizations bringing existing, long functioning, profitable organizations into being, there are special rules and procedures for raising money, devising budgets, spending money and making sure that what you do on the raising and spending complies with the law. We teach that specialty in the Political Management program. Message: Message is so important to political communication. Message is so important to political management that you take, not one, but two courses on it. One, to learn the basic forms or elements of political communication: the (op ed?) piece, the debate talking points, the 30 second spot. And a second course to learn how those-, how content in those various message forms fit together into a communication strategy. Third, Mobilization: Campaigns don’t succeed unless people see that a lot of other people support the campaign. So you need to learn how to mobilize people, how to motivate them, how to engage them, how to get more and more out of them until a goal is accomplished. Fourth, and finally, Measurement: How well is your campaign doing? Are you raising enough money? Are you mobilizing enough people? Do you have the right messages out there? Increasingly there are social scientific methods by which we can measure the ongoing process of the campaign. Close X

Ethics & Leadership

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The final stage of your education at the Graduate School of Political Management is a look at the ethical considerations and the leadership opportunities that emerge in campaign situations. So you’ll-, we won’t tell you or teach you how to discern between right and wrong. You go to your religion for that or your own family or your own soul. Instead we teach you to take the moral philosophy or outlook that you do have and how to apply it in the recurring situations, the recurring dilemmas that political managers face. Similarly, we won’t teach you how to be a leader; we’ll teach you how to identify and enhance leadership as it emerges in these recurring political situations. Close X

Identify Political Aptitudes

Open Your Networks

Move Horizontally and Vertically