October 29th, 2008
In politics, what’s important isn’t always what you can see. And compared with television ads and campaign events, field organizing is invisible — reporters on the campaign bus can only see the end result, which is the crowd that turns out. Today’s Wall Street Journal illuminates this critical corner of the campaign less than a week before it could help swing traditionally Red states to Obama. Here’s the core takeaway: the internet has revived the art of voter-to-voter contact, which had atrophied during the broadcast television era of politics. Let’s hear it from a guy who knows:
“Ironically, it took the Internet to get us back to the old-fashioned way of doing politics,” says Mark Sullivan, the founder of a start-up called Voter Activation Network Inc., or VAN, which runs the Web-based database for the Democratic National Committee
The Journal’s Christopher Rhoads profiles the competing turnout operations, providing great details about how volunteers are trained and coordinated by paid staff, as well as how political databases play into the entire process. Note that the ‘net plays into all kinds of traditional campaign activities — from phone-banking to block-walking — and that it’s usually sitting there in the background. The internet FACILITATES face-to-face connection rather than replaces it, getting each volunteer the information he or she needs to be effective and then collecting the data they gather as they go door-to-door or dial-for-support. As my friend Nate Wilcox has been pointing out for years, welcome to the new world of machine politics.