by John Hawkins | December 31, 2008 5:07 am
From Dale Franks at The QandO Blog,
Since getting their behinds handed to them in the last two election cycles, people on the Right have been taking a long hard look at why they’ve turned into such losers. One of the areas of concern that have popped up as a result of this introspection has been the role of technology in politics. Technology, many are now convinced, is super-terrifically important. “After all,” they argue, “just look what Obama did with his web site. We need to do that!”
So now, the politicos are all jumping onto the technology bandwagon. Being good politicos, they are going about it wrong.
There has been a rush of political consultants to learn technology, so they can bill themselves as “technologists” (They aren’t). There’s been a stampede to get Twitter accounts and Facebook and MySpace profiles. Everyone is throwing around cool-sounding terms like “Web 2.0” and “social networking software”.
All of this generates a lot of heat, but, unfortunately, very little light.
Primarily, that is because the people engaging in this discussion, for the most part, don’t have any clue about technology. Oh, they know the buzzwords, and they have a grasp of what some current technologies do, and maybe even have some good ideas about how to use tech here and there.
But they don’t know technology. What they know, to some greater or lesser degree, is how to use some products of technology. But how to architect it, design applications, or how to implement them…they don’t have a clue.
This is, for the most part, spot on.
Do you want to know why Barack Obama — and to a lesser extent, Ron Paul, had so many supporters online and managed to raise so much money?
Here’s a hint: it didn’t have much to do with their tech expertise, the political consultants they hired, or the technology they used. As a matter of fact, Ron Paul’s campaign struck me as fairly technologically backwards early on.
So, how did it work?
Primarily, they succeeded online because they had a lot of enthusiastic supporters. Their supporters created forums. Their supporters created Facebook fan pages. Their supporters created Meet-up groups. Their supporters chipped in the cash.
Now, don’t get me wrong; they did do some things to harness the energy of their online supporters. They also did, eventually, come up with some ingenious ideas. Obama’s ‘Project Houdini,’ for example, was inspired.
Moreover, let me also add that I AM NOT saying the GOP and the conservative movement are fine online — they’re not fine, they’re way behind. The Right needs to get more tech savvy, build up its online infrastructure, improve its online messaging, acquire more email addresses, uplift its existing online innovators, and generally strengthen itself online across the board. These are all serious issues that the Right would be foolish to ignore.
However, the point that needs to be made is that you absolutely cannot underestimate the value of having excited, motivated people backing a candidate. You can take the top 20 tech geniuses on the internet and put them with a campaign that has 5,000 excited supporters online and put a novice in charge of a campaign that has 25,000 excited supporters online, and the novice will outperform the experts.
Another way to put this is that you could have taken the same “internet geniuses” that ran Barack Obama’s campaign and put them in charge of Chris Dodd’s campaign and they wouldn’t have done squat. You could have taken Ron Paul’s guys and had them running Sam Brownback’s campaign and they wouldn’t have produced anything.
The technology can make a difference, but all the tech in the world won’t help without a sufficient number of excited warm bodies to innovate, rev up their friends, and volunteer their time and their money.
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