The real problem for Simon Bridges in last weeks TVNZ Poll was this…
…Bridges has had to be a dick to get media oxygen and that’s helped National but has burnt him. Over 51% disapprove of the job he’s doing, and remember this poll was taken as false accusations that Jacinda Ardern not only knew about a sexual assault but that she covered it up as well.
If you can’t lift your approval ratings against someone accused of covering up sex crimes, you need to have a moment of reflection about life choices.
This is why Simon’s social media war is so crucial to the 2020 election campaign.
Electioneering previous to Facebook amounted to identifying voters from a known voting pool and serving that voting pool up messages that made them vote. This was crude targeting, but if you lived in a wealthy neighbourhood, you would hear messages attuned to you, if you lived in a poorer neighbourhood, you would hear messages tailored for that environment.
Facebook however allowed you to hunt not just for known voters, but that vast swathe of people who also don’t bother voting.
On the Left we have told ourselves that vast swathe of people who don’t vote are poor and brown and disenfranchised, and while that is certainly true, it also includes a large number of angry white men who don’t bother voting because they feel culturally alienated by the current paradigms of micro-aggression policing and Millennial sensibilities. This group of males are economically paranoid by their perceived lack of cultural power and whose economic anxiety clashes with being told they are the ones with the privilege.
Rather than engaging, these male white voters simply shield themselves in apathy and cynicism and don’t vote.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica suddenly had hundreds of data points to know how to precisely push those angry white non voters into rage fuelled voting machines. This manipulation of white male anger become the driving force that saw Trump win, Brexit win and Scott Morrison win.
National will adopt the exact same tactics. Their social media campaign will target white male nonvoters with cleverly coded sexist memes like #PartTimePM and the sense that the last election was stolen somehow.
People may disapprove of the job Simon is doing, but he can lead National to victory by using social media to inject resentment into politics via micro-targeted Facebook adverts.
2020 is going to be the Facebook election and it will play to our worst angels.