Several months ago, I wrote an article for Personal Democracy Forum titled: Why Republicans are Winning at Tech. My premise was that while Democrats have garnered a lot of publicity by creating "online communities," and "blogging," it was Republicans who were using technology (such as micro-targeting) to win elections. (I attributed this to a predisposition Republicans have toward being businesslike and results-oriented.)
Not surprisingly, the article was quite popular among many of our Republican friends. Patrick Ruffini even wrote, "…for us online politicos, Matt Lewis’s commentary in Personal Democracy Forum is big, exciting, juicy stuff." …As you might imagine, my opinions were not as well received on the Left.
Today, two developments seem to corroborate my position…
First, The Washington Post reports: "A group of well-connected Democrats led by a former top aide to Bill Clinton is raising millions of dollars to start a private firm that plans to compile huge amounts of data on Americans to identify Democratic voters and blunt what has been a clear Republican lead in using technology for political advantage."
Of course, the fact that the Democrats must rely on a "private effort" to build an effective database implies the DNC has not been doing their job, with respect to improving campaign technology. (No doubt, this is "help" that DNC Chairman Howard Dean probably sees as a slap in the face — which it is).
I’m not sure whether or not to take this seriously. For one thing, this maneuver could simply be a way for the "Clintonista’s" (who used to run the party until the "Deaniacs" seized it) to undermine Dean and pry back the party apparatus, just in time for Hillary’s presumed run for the White House.
Additionally, it seems that every couple of months there is a big Washington Post article about how Democrats are launching a new training program, building a new database, doing some sort of new outreach, etc. In fact, it seems like I’ve read this story before…
Morton Blackwell, who has been observing political technology for years, once cautioned me not to read too much into these types of stories. His argument is that the real advances don’t end up in the newspaper. In short, you don’t send out a press release about your technology if it’s the real deal.
Morton ought to know. He managed to train thousands and thousands of conservatives how to win elections and organize college campuses before the mainstream media finally started taking note. Still, I’ve always thought it is wiser to overestimate your opponents than underestimate them. So I’m sounding the alarm…
In related news, Hotline’s "On Call" blog today features a post about how Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) is using a new form of an old technology to hold town hall meetings — the telephone. It’s called, Tele Town Hall technology, and in short, it’s like a conference call where constituents also get to ask questions.
Interestingly, Democrats have also taken a pass on this technology. According to the blog, the problem isn’t Democrat staffers or consultants, it’s the member’s themselves. It seems they don’t want to spend any of their franking budget on the technology.
So once again, the Dems find themselves behind the technology curve. …Who knows? Maybe Clinton can find some donors to pay for this, too?