April 6th, 2008
This just in from Bergen County, New Jersey: online politics has hit town and the locals are taking to it with gusto, like a guido to gold chains. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and blogs all make an appearance as North Jersey Record reporter Matthew Van Dusen interviews area politicos attempting to use the internet to influence policy or elect a candidate. It’s up to e.politics to put it all in context:
Some viral campaigns have proved effective at the national level, said Colin Delaney [sic], the founder of e.politics, a Washington, D.C.-based Web site about online political advocacy. For instance, Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia lost his seat in 2006 after a video surfaced of him calling a man “macaca.”
Delaney believes that candidates at the local level, however, will still be able to win races through traditional campaigning for years to come.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something that every local candidate will do,” Delaney said of the viral techniques.
Nothing like a little skepticism to balance the sweet innocence of the featured online politics enthusiasts… I’d probably describe the campaigns in question as “would-love-to-go-viral” rather than actually viral, though that’s a mild quibble (somebody someday will spell Delany right). Julie Germany also gets in a good quote; she and I are becoming a story-sourcing tag team these days.
To expand on the quote above, I’m 100% sure that we’re going to see plenty of interesting uses of online tools in local politics, but we’re also going to see more of a range of successful campaigns of all kinds at the local level. Big national or statewide campaigns are going to have to do essentially everything right, but local campaigns will usually focus on a narrower set of tools and channels by necessity. For instance, politics that focuses on a single area, town or neighborhood still works very well face-to-face, something I suspect will never change. Plenty of people with the skills, the resources and the inclination will connect with their neighbors electronically, while others will find better results from different means. All around, it should be fun to watch.