The Forces of History

Republicans’ #1 fundraising tool. Photo by Zizzy Baloobah.

More on Sidney Blumenthal, whose book The Permanent Campaign tells how the campaign finance reforms enacted by liberal Democrats post-Watergate (limiting campaign gifts to $1000 or less) were the major factor contributing to the rise of Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct mail master who leveraged George Wallace’s mailing list into an intensely sophisticated operation.

Viguerie raised money and built grassroots support for Republican candidates across the country, leading to their political domination over the next 30 years. The Democrats never caught up in direct mail. It took them until Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign to learn how to compete successfully via the Internet.

History can generate some surprising offshoots from its main narrative. How can we (or can we?) train ourselves to spot the opportunities, to see around the corners?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.