Joël Boulvais, a colleague of mine on the Licence 3 English for Communications programme here at CELSA, recently drew my attention to an excellent article from The New Yorker about the birth of political consulting. In 1933 (the same year that master of poitical communications, Adolf Hitler, became Chancellor of Germany) Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker founded Campaigns, Inc. To quote the article, “… for years Whitaker and Baxter had no competition, which is one reason that, between 1933 and 1955, they won seventy out of seventy-five campaigns. The campaigns they chose to run, and the way they decided to run them, shaped the history of California, and of the country. Campaigns, Inc., is shaping American politics still.” (Emphasis mine).
The article is not only a must-read for those studying communications — and not just political communications — but is a good example of the narrative journalism for which The New Yorker is so renowned. Did you know that a socialist once ran for office (albeit in the Democrat ticket) in California?
“I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty,” by Upton Sinclair, is probably the most thrilling piece of campaign literature ever written. Instead of the usual flummery, Sinclair, the author of forty-seven books, including, most famously, “The Jungle,” wrote a work of fiction. “I, Governor of California,” published in 1933, announced Sinclair’s gubernatorial bid in the form of a history of the future, in which Sinclair is elected governor in 1934, and by 1938 has eradicated poverty. “So far as I know,” the author remarked, “this is the first time an historian has set out to make his history true…”