Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't call us

One of the grassroots challenges of modern politics is how to reach voters. For years, electronic mass media has dominated the conversation. Dumbed it way the hell down, too. It's one reason we have middle school level politics, for example tendentious dipshit idiot Jon Keller heavily pimping another stupid story tonight on WBZ-TV, this one about the Oval Office thermostat. Yes, the Clinton rules are back.

Nowadays, though, TV ads are not very effective. It's hard to find an audience that won't mute them or surf away, and no one seems to be trying blipverts. You have to repeat them so often to get people to notice that they alienate most other viewers.

The telephone often doesn't work, especially not robo calls. But even a call from a real person doesn't work if that person is a stranger. I have a thick hide, but lots of people can't stand being told to fuck off, which happens no matter who you make calls for. Sometimes even I'm tempted, though usually I just laugh at the Republicans who call. But we have caller ID anyway, so we usually don't even pick up the phone.

What's left? In any campaign bigger than a dozen precincts, it's very hard for the candidate to go door to door for more than photo ops. Real grassroots work is what's left. In 2006, Deval Patrick built a huge network of activists, and they talked to their neighbors. In 2008, Barack Obama nationalized the idea, and it worked.

People don't hang up on their neighbors and friends. Social networks, old and new, are the pathways that are left. Of course, it always helps to have an extraordinary candidate. So, when I put my local state rep candidate together with a friend whose public school related email list is vast and nonpartisan, my candidate made the person-to-person sale and got an important email endorsement that didn't come from the campaign, although I provided basic biography.

Because we no longer trust mass media sources and because audiences are too fragmented to reach electronically anyway, politics is going back to the future. Permanent neighborhood level organizing is going to be the wave of the future.

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