Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More than voting

"But voting is not enough. If voting was effective, it would be illegal."

In 2000, John McCain was the candidate who had harnessed the power of internet fundraising and organizing.

In 2004, it was Howard Dean. Famously, in response to a Bush-Cheney $2000 a plate dinner, Dean posted online a photo of himself eating a "$3 turkey sandwich," and in that day matched his opponent's contributions from the wealthy at the preceding dinner (a figure somewhere in the area of $250,000).

This year, it's been Barack Obama. Polls show him ahead, though people can occasionally tend to be poor predictors of how they will actually vote. Political Economists predict that this will work in Obama's favor.

Chances are, then, that Obama will be the next president (63% according to intrade at the moment), which would make it the first time that someone who built a motivated online organization... won. When Howard Dean dropped out, he turned DFA (Dean for America) into DFA (Democracy for America) and continued to use his organization for "campaign training, organizing resources, and media exposure." But what happens when a person with an online grassroots organization wins? What happens to the "Obama" facebook application? A declaration of "Obama elected: job over!" coming from a campaign whose rallying cry was individual involvement would be somewhat nonsequitur.

What we've seen already from Karl Rove's permanent campaign doctrine is more of a permanent media campaign, aimed at disseminating misleading (or blatantly false) information and swaying public opinion. What would a permanent grassroots campaign look like? What if a president readily contacted his supporters with a message of, "I'm working on convincing the congress to pass bill X, and I need your help to contact them and convince them?"

It's bound to be very interesting, at the least.

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