06 May 2008

The Mass Movement and the Internet Age

I had a copy of Ed Lasky's article at American Thinker on Barack Obama's Goldmine, in which there is a positing that the sub-$200 support that is widespread will become a veritable goldmine and contributors list for those that support Mr. Obama. Thus these individuals are looking to tie themselves to the Obama database of small contributors so that they, too, can garner support from same. There is, however, on thing I find odd when he looks at this:

The Obama campaign has compiled a giant database of supporters that can be tapped by superdelegates who need help -- and of course money -- in their own future campaigns. The Senator has developed the campaign equivalent of a gold mine that has many years of production ahead.

The reason this has problems is even given a bit later on, although I don't think Mr. Lasky realizes it:

The Obama campaign has risen on a wave of support from young people. A substantial share of his base is composed of those under the age of twenty-five. In Ohio, 70 percent of those under the age of 25 voted for him; in Pennsylvania, he garnered 65 percent of this vote. This children's crusade has also been instrumental in helping him in other caucus and primary states. This is the Generation Next cohort: millions of people who are very adept at making the internet part of their lives.

As part of the generation after the Baby Boomers but before the Gen-X/Y, post-2001 ones, I will say that there is one thing that the internet does that has been heretofore difficult to do: make personal filters to remove unwanted messages. In this era of Mass Customization and marketing to One Person and generally making it all about individualism, the two party system in which a party actually represents a coherent ideology is falling by the wayside. There is one pertinent fact that defines Barack Obama supporters: they support Sen. Obama. They become Democrats to show that support but their actual affiliation with the party, itself, is suspect. If, as he has styled himself, he is running on 'Change and Hope' that means that the party itself may be the obstacle to actually keeping his following together.

Posit this:

Consider that you are an ardent supporter signing up to give $50 or $75 to the campaign, getting a MySpace link, and even getting out to vote for him. You are enthused!


You even registered with the Democratic Party!

Then comes the e-mail soliciting more money... ahhhh... no matter how 'verified' a donor is, there is one thing that a superdelegate is lacking: he or she is NOT Barack Obama. And didn't you give to his campaign and do your party, anyway? What's up with this bothering me with e-mails and even, the audacity, PHONING me on my cell phone and interrupting me while I'm talking with a good friend?

Hey! Get this party out of my life... and just how the HELL did they get my e-mail and phone number?

And now comes the SPAM filters for what are unwanted messages looking for money from you? Yes! SPAM!

What Barack Obama has done is gained the following for Barack Obama that *is* 'net savvy, integrate their networking into their lives, expect individualism from companies (even if it is just via scripting, the effort is made) and in keeping unwanted scams, beggers, and petty thieves out of their lives online.

These are *not* committed 'party loyalists' but are individuals who cater to the party of one: THEMSELVES.

The 'net generation, encompassing parts of Gen-X/Y and all of the post-2001 generation are incredibly savvy compared to their older counterparts and 'viral marketing' is a two-way street: get a whiff that the pure and sainted Obama campaign is selling THEIR personal information to PARTY HACKS looking for donations and what you have is not a lovely, easy path to riches outside of the big donor base. No, you get something else: no money, bad word of mouth, and people pointing out how petty you are to use their dedication to a special cause to try and weasel money from them.

I know I have a lovely suite of SPAM filters on Thunderbird, and most online systems have an easy 'check box and hit SPAM button' to teach them what to weed out.

This is, indeed, a generation unlike any other.

The two party system has been reeling from the hits it has already taken from liberalized voting rules in primaries, cross-overs between parties, State organizations not adhering to National party wishes, and to individuals doing this thing known as 'ending future donations' to people that do not support their views. The Republican party has that in spades with the illegal immigration problem, and had to shut down calling phone banks because individuals were no longer interested in donating to the party. By crossing a coherent section of the party that follows the Traditionalist Conservative views of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, the party's elected members of Congress (who, if the Republican party had a superdelegate system would be those very same ones) crossed a part and near majority of what holds the party together and suffered and continues to suffer from that. The Democratic party, by pushing the individual's charisma to the greatest extent has no found that the loyalty to the party is diminishing: being registered Democrat means you support an individual or two, but not the party and, really, can't the party get its act together and quit bothering them for donations?

Unfortunately the politicians are, generally, not 'net savvy and are thinking in the 'old unchanged, unhopeful' ways on the Democratic side of the house, hoping they can still get *something* from those who support Barack Obama. Mind you, this is with the DNC still at only 50% or so of the funds necessary to HOLD its summer convention while the Republicans had that funding wrapped up months ago.

The competitive advantage is not, as Mr. Lasky looks at, to the holder of this database of individually motivated people supporting one candidate. At some point that mass of individuals will realize that opening their wallets to one person they like has gotten them a raft of e-mails and pestering from people they have never heard of asking for money for something they DON'T support and start to do the only sane thing available.

Train the SPAM filter to weed them out, and put call blocking on to certain numbers and groups.

Wouldn't you?


Anonymous said...

Isnt the biggest problem for obama that hes spending the money from his goldmine not beating Mcain but clinton? how will his goldmine react to obama wanting more money in october for the real campaign?...not well would be a safe prediction if this goes on much longer his money (and democratic money) is going to dry up faster than a golf course in nevada so Mcain can basically prance into the white house

A Jacksonian said...

TWT - That is the major problem for the entire Democratic Party leadership: the funds going into this primary have made it so that the DNC is scrambling to get funding for its convention in-place. At the 50% mark at this late date, Dean has had to try anything to get this primary over so that there will be funds *for* a convention.

Funding *that* plus the last of the primaries will leave the entire donor base tapped out. Obama is winning the 'rich man's' way, but is now running out of riches. I've opined elsewhere that the point of Clinton is to so drain and tax the party this time around that it will be in a frail state for the 2012 go-around.

McCain's problem, and that of the Republican party, is that by having gone back on its ideology for the Traditionalist Conservative views (small government, sound government, limited government and rule of law) has wounded the Republican party in a similar fashion: their base stopped donating in droves last year during the immigration fiasco and lack of earmark reform. While McCain can get some benefit from the latter, he is lethal on the former: he will have funding woes of a similar sort to Obama in that the highly restricted base will not be able to fund a deep campaign, and the funding that can be gotten will be by the wealthy donor base.

Neither of these is going to enthuse voters this year and we will probably see the first sub-50% turnout for a Presidential election in the modern era. That is not good for democracy and spells hard times ahead for the US as the government moves from plurality support (half of less than 55%) to minority support (half of less than 50%). At 55% one can still hold on to shreds of legitimacy for government, at sub-50% that disappears for democracy which requires at least majority turnout for elections.

I am having problems exactly seeing *how* the two parties remain alone *as* two parties, beyond all the legislation they have put in place to sinecure those positions. These factors, considered together, along with the far too high cost of campaigning has broken affiliation to both parties - one along 'identity politics' and the other along 'doing as you promised' lines. The parties are faltering because their candidates represent themselves *only*, and the parties are just vehicles to power.