The Blue & White Party and the rest of the opposition have been given a “do-over,” a second chance to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu and his potential coalition. This is undoubtedly a difficult task; one that will be impossible if Blue & White undertakes the same sort of top-down campaign they ran in the last election.
There is no doubt the “Party of the Generals” will hire the “best” consultants. The Blue & White team will meet endlessly to work out a strategy, plan their Facebook ad campaigns. If they are especially effective, they will copy the Likud, and make sure every one of their candidates gets and hammers home the message of the day. The one thing I fear they will not do is meet voters and actually sway public opinion.
The last election campaign was unique. There were no rallies, no street work, no one knocking on doors. Instead, the leaders of almost all the parties were persuaded that the way to win a campaign was to reach potential voters on Facebook, WhatsApp, and other various forms of electronic media. I am the last person to say that these mediums are unnecessary, or ineffective. As a matter of fact, in the latest edition of my book on US Presidential Elections that will be coming out at the end of the month, I devote a chapter to the impact of social media. However, politicians throughout the world, and especially here in Israel, have come to rely almost exclusively on the electronic medium. While posts, direct messages, and robocalls are an excellent way to fire up your base, it is a ground game, out and about in the field that is needed to impact the views of voters who might not agree with you, or who perhaps have not made up their mind whether to trust you.
I have not been encouraged by the actions (or lack thereof) of the Blue and White Party during the week since the new election was called. I believe that if they are serious about winning “Round 2,” instead of taking cute pictures of themselves, the four leaders would be out in the field — every day, from 8 AM to 9PM. Blue and White party leaders should greet voters as the board trains in Rishon Letzion in the morning, and be there again to welcome residents home in the evenings. They should sit in cafes, bus stations, basically, anywhere there are people —and stay out there, talking speaking being out among the people. The Blue and White party leadership does not need to spend their time with their choir of convinced supporters, or with their staff. To be truly heard, they need to be out pressing the flesh.
The two main components of the previous (and likely future) coalition has a built-in advantage. The Likud has well developed local branch headquarters in which to meet and the religious parties have a broad network of synagogues, with Rabbis who get out their message. The opposition parties have no such resource. Advertising works at the margins, but if the opposition wants any chance to win, they need to be out in the streets — every day, every hour — meeting people. They must talk, listen, explain their positions and vision for the future. No factory should be too small, no event too big.
The country has been living the Netanyahu narrative for the last decade. If Benny Gantz, or anyone else who opposes the current government, wants the public to support them, they are going to have to earn that trust and support. Running for office is very hard. It is a 24-hour a day job. There are 5 million voters whose hands you need to shake in three months. The time to start is now.