There’s a brilliant book about politics in the age of Donald Trump and Twitter called Yes We (Still) Can by Dan Pfeiffer, former communications director in the Obama White House.
In a section called Best Messenger Wins, he describes asking a panel of voters after the 2016 election to sum up Donald Trump’s campaign message. The audience would shout back as one: “Make America Great Again!”
When he asked if they knew what Trump’s argument against Hillary Clinton was, they would say: “Lock Her Up”.
But when the same questions were asked about Clinton’s campaign, there were a range of responses, and none uttered with much conviction.
“For all of Trump’s offensive statements and absurd tweets,” writes Pfeiffer, “he had a clear and consistent message that broke through.”
The passage came back to me last Friday when the interim results of New Zealand’s cannabis referendum indicated the No campaign had won the day.
This is by no means a criticism of the Yes campaign. But in an age when nuanced discussion will always be drowned out by snappy soundbites, it’s increasingly hard for positive arguments to be heard.
Saying what you’re against is so much easier to sum up in 280 characters or less.