Chapter 23 of 24 from David Axelrod and Karl Rove

The Current State of Politics


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

Topics include: Dissecting the 2016 Presidential Election • Political Tribalism • Polarization and the Media • Thinking Beyond Your Base

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

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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Class Info


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.

Campaign strategists behind the Barack Obama and George W. Bush election victories teach how to run a winning campaign and find your voice in politics.

A downloadable booklet accompanies the class with a glossary, reading list, and supplemental information.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. David and Karl will also critique select student work


David Axelrod and Karl Rove

David Axelrod and Karl Rove Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging