Knock down the House and the new rules of power

Have you taken a look at our “Understanding the new rules of power”1 issue? It examines how a hyperconnected world is reshuffling the cards for more open and participative power structures, relying on sharing and appropriation. The documentary Knock down the House2 shows how this phenomenon has reached even the US Congress.

The documentary closely follows the campaign of four Democratic candidates for the midterm elections. Among them is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a 29-year-old waitress from the Bronx with no political experience — who won the vote against a “real” politician who had run uncontested for 14 years. The campaign and the victory of Ocasio-Cortez exemplifies these new rules of power: communication that triggers action, by bringing to light the interests or values of underserved communities. Also, a mastery of the art of the crowd, along with mastery of social networks, which were used to appeal to and recruit even longtime abstainers. The combination of these two rules allowed the candidate to form a strong community and become its muse. A final rule the Ocasio-Cortez exploited: combining old and new power. Not only does Ocasio-Cortez master social media, but she has an oratorical talent worthy of the most experienced politicians and maintained an almost permanent presence on the ground.

Ocasio-Cortez’s trajectory proves that this kind of reversal occurs not just among start-ups or spontaneous collectives but can upset even a country’s highest (and most rigid) institutions. The lesson is yours to learn: take seriously these new modes of influence, which have become among the most effective ways of establishing and renewing power in “real life.” But note that Trump too uses these same campaigining methods — and we have seen the result in distortions and manipulations. New power must therefore guard against falling into the errors of the old ways.

 

To go further:
1 “Understanding the new rules of power” (Business Digest no. 292, December-January 2018).
2 Knock down the House by Rachel Lears (May 2019, Netflix).