Defining Political Sentiment: Mainstream or My Stream?

The 2016 presidential primary season has shattered every expectation about the established process. From the retiree-aged front-runners to no political experience required, SNL skits have been unnecessary as the real events are so entertaining.

I am a party-unaffiliated independent, with limited interest in politics. Yes, I vote in most elections and worry about the macro issues. But I’m simply not passionate enough about the process or those who bravely dedicate themselves to public office to connect with either party.

Primary season has pushed forward and most of us have been surprised at Donald Trump’s persistent lead, given his freewheeling talking points. However, his tell-it-like-it-is, unfiltered approach seems to be resonating. And the Bern, in spite of his costly plans, has modest momentum. What is it about these upstart candidates that the public has found so appealing?

That’s exactly what establishment politicians are wondering. And these days, they’re getting nervous about potential outcomes. How can an outsider represent the conservative Republicans? How dare millennials, including young women, challenge Hillary’s chances in favor of a Democratic socialist?

Political pundits describe these rogue candidates as going against the “mainstream” particularly on the Republican side. But are they really challenging the mainstream, or just the traditional politicians themselves, who may be concerned about their own futures?

To test this theory, I reviewed mainstream’s definition against current events. A quick Google search listed the following terms as “mainstream.”

  1. Normal: I can’t dispute this one. What we’ve come to expect as normal or “business as usual” is certainly being challenged. But then again, isn’t it the voters – or the politicians’ constituents – who are raising their voices to challenge?
  2. Conventional: Neither Trump or Sanders is particularly conventional but they have amassed a substantial following, so perhaps they’re simply redefining the term.
  3. Majority: Here, I’m not so sure, as the fact that both Trump and Sanders are winning means some majorities favors their ideas and calls for change.
  4. Middle-of-the-road: I don’t believe that either party can claim to represent the middle-of-the-road. The natural tension between the blue and red is what enables achieving decisions and governing policies that work for most of us.

So I’m not convinced that either Trump or Sanders is really challenging the mainstream. Perhaps the mainstream is challenging itself and these candidates are helping chart that new course. Regardless, Trump and Sanders have engaged more interest during the presidential elections early stages than ever before, which is certainly positive – and not a particularly mainstream expectation! Remember to vote in your primary – and in November – and until then, enjoy the show.

Election

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SXSW 30: Older than many attendees, but still going strong

In my role as a marketing and communications strategist, I find it both inspiring and informative to immerse myself in opportunities to see what’s trending in my field. Like you, that often takes the form of reading blogs, tweets and articles, or catching up with industry friends. But there is nothing quite like attending a relevant conference to really capture that immersive experience.

Five years ago I began attending SXSW’s Interactive Conference – the geekier first phase of the famous music and film festival hosted in “Keep Austin Weird” Texas.  During those years, I’ve seen the conference evolve from a content and attendee perspective. My first year, the alternatives to the marketing and branding track were primarily technical sessions and participant demographics skewed young. Five years later, there are content tracks for gaming and VR/AR, sports, nonprofits, health and medtech, work & career management and more. Most of the panelists are older (mid-30s through 60s) and there are plenty of gray-haired participants. As well, corporate sponsorships have become substantial, featuring “recharge” lounges around the Austin Convention Center. However, that helps keep the registration fees affordable for the thousands who attend.

Each year,  some buzzworthy items surface during the conference (last year was Meerkat, this year was virtual reality, with VR experiences available at some sponsored lounges). However, I always have fun noting the smaller things that set the tone for the event. So here’s my list of #SXSW2016  trends:

  1. Tom’s flats and black sneakers were women’s shoes of choice (and comfort!).
  2. Man buns are here to stay.
  3. The hipster fedora is officially retired.
  4. Less live tweeting, however, it was cumbersome to figure out the session hashtags, as opposed to prior years when it was printed in the program.
  5. Highly engaged attendees, with those taking notes often using old-fashioned pens and paper.
  6. Fewer lines to get into sessions. Very long lines to get into parties and some of the corporate lounges.
  7. Lots of hotels downtown Austin, which is a huge improvement and convenience.
  8. Very fast runners along the riverside pathways.
  9. The bats were still on winter vacation (or avoiding the evening show on the Congress Street bridge).
  10. Lyft ruled. As the official ride-sharing partner supplemented by $5 and $10 on-site credits, they were the ride of choice (and did a great job, by the way!).

If you’ve ever considered attending, I highly recommend it. Great content, top-notch speakers, a vibrant setting – and the chance to spot trends as they happen!

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