February 23, 2008

Campaigning on the internet--Part 3: Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah

For parts 1 and 2 of this thrilling series, please scroll down.


People have been using the internet to get together for as long as the internet has existed. Lord knows that's how I met my husband. So it makes sense that candidates would use this free advertisement to organize events and allow users to search for and attend events in their area. In-person support is, of course, a key of grassroots, or really any campaign effort. Nothing looks more impressive than hundreds of people waving signs with a candidate's name on them. Bonus points if those people are bundled up in several layers of clothing and it's clearly cold as Canada outside. Californians just don't tend to look impressive in those ways.

At any rate, I decided to check out what my involvement options are for each candidate. Since I'm lazy, I limited my search to within 20 miles of my home. With this criteria, I found that I could attend the following events for Barack Obama:

* Very near where I live, I can join fellow Obama supporters and phone bank Texas tomorrow
* I can celebrate Black History Month on March 1st, which will include a speech about Obama. That's just one short trip to Norwalk!
* Some guy in Irvine is also holding a Texas phone banking party tomorrow. The Texans are going to just LOVE us!
* This one's my personal favorite--on Saturday the 1st I can go to Long Beach and sign a petition to Barack Obama to select Hillary Clinton as a vice-presidential running mate. Yeah--good luck with that, guys.
* Also in Long Beach, on Friday, March 7th, for a minimum donation of $100, I can attend a concert/fundraiser for Obama
* If my feetsies are getting cold, I can go to Jenean's house on April 1st and participate in a raffle for an afghan knitted by the "Ravelry Knitters for Obama." If I don't feel compelled to show up in person, I can also buy raffle tickets on the internet.
* For those girlie moments, on Sunday, March 9th, I can go to Suddenly Slimmer Spa and become suddenly slimmer, secure in the knowledge that 10% of their total sales for the day will be donated to Obama
* Hot damn! On Tuesday, March 4th, I can gather at Chris's house, sit on his leather couches, and watch the results of the OH and TX primaries roll in on his big screen tv. He assures us it will be the "big mothership Obama houseparty." Unfortunately, it's BYOB.

On the Hillary side, I can:
* Gather at Maribel's house tomorrow for a festive reception with Hillary supporters from around the region. There is a suggested $50 donation.
*That's it.

Not that I want to beat up on Maribel, but Chris's leather couches and big screen tv sound just a wee bit more appealing, even if I do have to provide my own libations.

I can't really place this part in Hillary's hands as much as the other two. She can't exactly demand that her supporters start throwing kickass chili cookoffs for her. However, I find this emblematic of her campaign strategy on the whole.

Hillary's strategy all along has been to take the big states with a few token smaller ones and win on delegate count. This approach, which is just about the oldest in the book, is pretty rich coming from someone who advocates change. The fact is, people want to feel important. They want to feel like their voice counts for something. And they've become terribly disillusioned by the establishment. They've become disillusioned by an electoral system that says that a candidate who wins California, New York, Texas, and a couple other ones can win the election. Or that a candidate that wins the popular vote can still lose.

People want to feel empowered. They want to feel like their chili cookoff can make a difference. In order to inspire this kind of feeling, a candidate needs to reach these people with their message. A candidate needs to communicate and allow people to participate in that communication. It seems to me, then, that the obvious avenue would be the internet.

How else do you inspire that kind of loyalty and desire to act? Obama lost California, but there are still 8 events I can take part in. Hillary won California and then moved on, having gotten what she needed--leaving me with one expensive reception to attend. They say that to get your message across, you need to reach people where they are. I think Hillary vastly underestimated the number of people for whom that location is at home in front of a monitor.

I think one of Hillary's greatest blunders in this election is her inability to recognize and exploit the power of the internet. Since the invention of television, elections became a one-way street. A candidate talked at you from a screen and you sat in your living room soaking it in. Some would put a sign on their lawns and a tiny fraction would get out to a rally every once in a while, but for the most part, it was completely passive. When all the candidates are speaking at you, you simply pick the one you think you like the best and cast your vote.

But it's 2008 now. We have a medium--a huge medium--that allows people to talk back. We can interact. We can question and demand answers. We don't have to have a large living room to get together. We can send a message to 300,000 people at the same time at no cost. And suddenly, as each of those people become empowered, they feel like they are a part of something important. Like they can be an agent of change rather than a victim of the status quo.

We have one candidate who says "yes we can" and another who shows by her actions that she can do it without most of the states as long as she has the big, populated ones and a bunch of superdelegates. Is it any wonder why her claim of change comes off as disingenuous? Where the entire platform of "vote for me over him" is based on a transparent, bogus claim of "greater experience?" Where the deficit she can't seem to grasp is that a lot of people just don't like her?

I'm not saying that the internet is the be-all-end-all of election success, but I do believe it has played a huge part, at the very least subtextually, in this election. 6 months ago everyone thought HIllary was unbeatable. Now she's as good as SOL. Running against an opponent with a strikingly similar platform, how did this happen? When push came to shove, people voted for Obama. I'm sure political scientists will be examining this for years. I'd suggest they start with the internet.

Obama said, "...nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change." It looks like he's right. As I wrap this up, Obama has 964,568 people who own his campaign. When I started this series this afternoon, he had 964,145--a gain of 423 donating supporters. I'd call that pretty darned impressive.

Posted by Shelby at February 23, 2008 10:52 PM

Seriously. Hillary lost me when her Four Seasons bill was so extraordinarily high that the news media picked up on it. I hate Huckabee, but at least he stays at Days Inn like I do. Four Seasons? Great way to connect with that lacking young voter support!

Posted by: Sherri at February 25, 2008 01:24 PM

Yes, Hil seems to have forgotten that the REAL deal is in November.... we still get to vote one more time.

Posted by: Katrina Rosiak at February 26, 2008 05:57 AM

Good work in presenting the internet in such a positive way! This is soooooo interesting to me. Way to go girl! Thanks, Mom :-)

Posted by: Shirley at February 26, 2008 03:56 PM
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