Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama's social network

Americans should be immune to the big media campaigns that pretend to be national conversations about democracy. But they aren't. Not yet.

At the same time, voters are getting harder and harder to reach. Direct mail goes into the recycle bin. Caller ID makes telephones inefficient. Cell phones are impossible to district and then to reach. Newspapers are bleeding readers.

That leaves door-to-door, and no one can run for President by going door to door. Republicans assert this truth this way:

John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, flatly declares that what got Obama the nomination "is not a general-election strategy" and contends that Obama's operation will be weak against McCain's crossover appeal in such states as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nevada.
It's true that primary campaigns and general elections are much different animals. Shannon O'Brien ran a great primary campaign for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 but faltered in the general.

There's new feature of politics since then, though, that the McCain campaign ignores at its peril. Social networks and grassroots organizing are back because they have to be. Republican social networks have mattered before, but the evangelicals are much more divided in 2008 than they were in 2000 and 2004.

On the other hand, social networking tools and principles tested by Deval Patrick in winning the governorship of Massachusetts in 2006 have changed the game. Howard Dean started it, but Patrick brought it to fruition. It's not an accident that much of Obama's infrastructure sounds
like Patrick's.

After all, who would you prefer to hear about politics from - a neighbor you can have an exchange with or a blithering talking head like Chris Matthews? And, I hope, if voters are hearing from their neighbors, they'll stop being taken in by all the bullshit covering our TVs.

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