Dear CDC: Crowd Size Doesn’t Matter in Election Campaigning

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By Wynfred Russell

My cell phone kept ringing over and over as I began the first leg of a planned five-mile bike ride under sunny clear skies with calm winds on Saturday. Temperature: 84 degrees. I eventually stopped to answer, but the call dropped.

My phone rang again as soon as I got back on my bike. I picked up the call, and it was from Monrovia. It was a political strategist from one of the political parties.

“Are you on Facebook,” he asked hastily? “No, but why? What is going on?” I replied. “You have to go on Facebook. CDC has shut down Monrovia,” he added. “I have not seen any candidate pull such a large crowd in the rain like George Weah is doing. Monrovia is at a standstill with helicopters buzzing over the city; CDC is campaigning on the ground and in the air,” he said.

Meantime, I was receiving a deluge of WhatsApp messages containing images and video snippets of the CDC campaign launch event. The last message that came through reading: “If CDC wins this election, I am going to be a disgruntle Liberian for six years.” I parked my bike and sat on a wooden bench at the entrance to the park and responded to the strategist and my friend WhatsApp with two words: calm down.

Why are people getting all bent out of shape?

I reminded them that it was not the first time that the CDC had caused congestion and flooded Monrovia with thousands of individuals. George Weah can bring the crowd, but can he deliver the votes? His track record says no; group size is one of the most deceptive signs in politics.

Over the last two presidential election cycles, candidate Weah must have gazed out over vast numbers of people and probably convinced himself and his supporters the Executive Mansion was his for the taking. The CDC clearly has not learned – one of the most idiotic claims being spread on social media is that the crowd size at the party’s kick-off rally is indicative of Weah’s winnability.

During the special senatorial election three years ago, CDC’s massive crowds did, in fact, translate to votes, trouncing his rivals in that race. But when it comes to presidential elections, size is not always a barometer of a campaign’s destiny.

Extrapolating electoral prospects from the size of crowds at campaign events is often a misleading metric – for instance, during last year’s U.S. presidential elections, Hillary Clinton held packed, boisterous rallies in mega-venues supported by Jay-Z, Beyonce, Oprah, President Obama and just about every A-list Hollywood star.

Mrs. Clinton thrilled millions of people during the campaign, but to her chagrin and that of her aides, supporters, the media, and democratic party officials, the wishful thought that bulging rallies will translate into a stampede at the ballot box for her candidacy were painfully disappointing.

My advice to political parties is to chill out. There is no reason to fear the CDC political juggernaut of hype. The election is just starting. Don’t be apprehensive. Don’t be despondent. Put your faith in retail politicking – opt for smaller, personable town-style rallies. Develop a firm boot on the ground strategy, village by village, town by town, if you want to blunt George Weah’s momentum. It is a better predictor of electoral success than bringing large crowds to football stadiums or throngs of people on the streets.

Still, it is not an impossibility that CDC’s multitudes are a sign the grassroots uprising may confound conventional wisdom and deliver for Weah this time around. However, there is an exception to every rule.

The bumper-to-bumper gridlock of cars choking narrow Tubman Boulevard, or legions of people packed into the CDC headquarters, can be intoxicating, can nourish an ego and may falsely convince party operatives that it has tapped into something tangible. For candidates and their support staff members, stuck in a bubble, massive rallies can promote erroneous conclusions about the state of a campaign.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. It seems that you applied a proliferation of words in an attempt to conceal your nervousness about the size of the liberation rally. Crowd size matters. It is not the only thing that matters, which is why the CDC has upped its ground game through superior logistics and strengthened its external tentacles through a comprehensive foreign relations outreach. CDC doesn’t just have the crowds. It has everything else that matters as well.

    • PTD; CDC is manipulating people’s minds. That crowd was a mere couple of thousands. Nothing near the two millions CDC anticipated/claimed. Hon. Weah has no right to tie up TRAFFIC in already congested Monrovia. Political rallies should be restricted to destinated areas; like a STADIUM. The whole situation is misleading. Not everyone seen out there, was a part of tne G.W political rally. Some were simply going about their personal business. The Senator ought to understand that Monrovia is not a one man town/city. A Presidential wannabe should not be in the business of violating his fellow CITIZENS’ RIGHTS. With this kind of behavior, what kind of President is he going to be? Where/What are the rules and regulations; when it comes to political rallies in congested Monrovia? Is Senator Weah above the LAW; even before he becomes President? We need some good answer(s).

  2. Arty. Dixon
    Are you a poet? You are very good at throwing around words. The nonsense that CDC has strengthened its Foreign Relations outreach is total trash. You really believe when Weah meets an African Dictator like the chap in Togo and takes a picture with him that will enhance foreign relations?

    • I think of myself as one, actually.
      That African dictator is Chairman of ECOWAS, a multinational body of which Liberia is a founding member and whose conference was recently hosted in Monrovia. If that is not foreign relations, please tell me if any candidate is carrying out something resembling foreign relations, not to mention strengthening it.

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