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Business, Politics & Society

The Current State of Politics

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 23:35 min

Karl and David discuss their perspectives on the highly polarized current state of politics in America, and the future they see for the country.

David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging
Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
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How did we get from President Obama, who was the unifier, to Donald Trump, who's the divider? Because a lot of people thought that during those eight years, that they weren't being listened to, maybe longer than eight years. They thought, you know what? The coasts seem to be doing good, but I don't seem to be doing good. It seems that they're paying attention to the people in academia and people in the foundations and smart people in Washington, but they're not paying attention to me. And enough of those people were around that when it came down to an election-- think about 32% of the people in 2016 and the exit polls thought the country was going in the right direction, and they voted for Hillary Clinton by 89 to eight. But nearly 2/3 thought the country was seriously off on the wrong track. And that was enough to give Donald Trump the victory, including like, you know, 40,000 people in Pennsylvania and 11,000 people in-- - 80,000 votes tipped the election. - --in the three states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. - What you say is absolutely true. This was a change election. Donald Trump was the most authentic agent of change, whatever you think of the changes. And he spoke to those voters in a very vivid way. We tend to be cyclical in our judgments. I always say there's a replica and a remedy, and voters rarely choose the replica of what they have. Donald Trump was the anti-Obama in every way, in his style, in his approach. He wasn't interested in nuance. He wasn't interested in complexity. He wasn't interested in rules. His basic message was, I'll take care of it. Let me take care of it. Trust me, and I'll take care of it. And there was enough of a market for that to win that election. - Well, elections are never about just one candidate, either. And the Democrats worked very hard at nominating the one person in America whom Donald Trump could beat. And they did. - Well, I'll say this. If it's a change election, then someone whose calling card is experience in Washington is not necessarily going to be the answer. - Particularly if they don't have an explanation of what that experience will lead them to do. The thing that was missing in her campaign is the thing that you so rightly point out is, what is the message? What is it that they want to do in office? And other than, quote, "break the glass ceiling--" - Right. - --which was not a powerful enough message, particularly among women who were hoping for somebody to break the glass ceiling, but they wanted to break the glass ceiling for a good purpose other than just breaking the glass. - Yeah. Well, look, if a campaign-- one of the tests-- and this is what I would say to all the folks who are watching this now-- one of the tests of a campaign that has problems is if it has multiple slogans. If you have nine slogans during the course of a campaign, likely you're not going to win because what it means is that you're changing your message. You...

What it takes to win elections

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Very details, practical, hands -on information. Very interesting references, fun and engaging classes.

Good anecdotes and stories. Good to lay campaigning out in chronological order.

It's ok to disagree with people. It doesn't necessarily make you dumb and it doesn't necessarily make you evil.

Loved the different perspectives from both and most importantly the message of standing for something to win.



Mr Rove did not address the selling of ones soul. He has gone to work for theTrump reelection team, while having been openly critical of Trump.

Michelle M.

Really enjoyed this lesson. So refreshing to watch a smart, respectful conversation between two people with opposing views.

Henry T.

The leader that focuses on the issue would be the one to solve the tribalism, watch Andrew Yang on Joe Rogan's podcast.

Sandra M.

Really loved the topic, discussion and the two amazing 'teachers'. Next to the content they also showed how great politics can be, even though you have some different opinions. But also great insights into their way of thinking.

Rob M.

Interesting conversation, thank you. I come from Australia - our politics is boring - we are lucky. It seems to me both Mr Axelrod and Mr Rove are unconvinced that US politics is going to get better anytime soon. One HUGE difference between Australia and the US is that we have compulsory voting: you have to turn out on election day or you get a $50 fine. This has a strange, but wonderful effect on our politics. 1. The "base" for both sides in Australia is much less attractive to stir up. Instead both sides know that the center is going to turn out, and determine the winner. 2. We spend no campaign money on "get out to vote" stuff. Both sides spend their money on "the issues". I'd love to know what Mr Axelrod and Mr Rove thought about it. Not sure if MasterClass ever follows up with the presenters? Cheers!

Sergio S.

The fun part is that, after all, even Karl Rove has not rebuttal against the idea that the Trump needs to go. Take it from the masters: Trump is toxic and needs to go. Axelrod and Rove dixit. I rest my case.

John M.

To David and Karl, It is worth mentioning that the "silos" referred to in this video thrive by causing the opposing side to seem more radical than they actually are. I tend to lean left, and if my perception of the right was solely curated by sensationalist news outlets like "Buzzfeed", my perception of the right would be that they are FAR more radical than they actually are. Likewise, I have friends who lean right, and when they hear words like "social justice", their mind immediately jumps to a prototypical image of the emotionally unstable "social justice warrior" harassing strait white males. These are unrealistic distortions are created by a polarized media. I am here for the view; I have no intention to be a part of any political campaign. HOWEVER, it would give me great satisfaction to be a part of the next movement that puts a severe dent on the toxic media outlets on both sides of the political aisle.

A fellow student

Axelrod is still in a past tense of curing, whilst Rove is already in a future tense of looking for something completely new. That proves what I observe these days that the progressive Democrats are getting conservative, and the conservative Republicans are getting progressive.

Conlan S.

I think it is also interesting that David encourages people to have an objective other than trying to destroy someone or something. The Democrat ticket for the past two years and certainly in upcoming elections is: "We hate Trump."

Conlan S.

FOX IS PART OF THE REASON FOR POLARIZATION? Ha! The sole purpose of CNN is to try to defame and destroy Trump. For all of liberals claiming that Trump isn't their president, THEY seem to be more obsessed with him than any other group of people. The live, breathe, and dream Trump. They cannot get him out of their minds.