Looking Forward to the Internet and Politics, circa 2008
By Charlene Li
You can look at today as the end of the 2004 political season – or as the start of the race for elections in 2006 and 2008. As I’m always on the lookout for future trends, I’ll take the latter. If there’s anything this election has proven it is that the Internet is here to stay in politics. Here’s what happened in 2004 and how my take on how it will be changed by technology in 2008:
- Online fundraising: In 2004, the Democrats uncovered a fundraising bonanza in $100 increments. By 2008, the sophisticated database that drove “get out the vote” efforts in the last days of the election will be used to “get out the cash”, tracking who has given and how likely they are to give just another $25 this week.
- Online political advertising: According to MediaPost, in 2004, less than $7 million was spent online by political campaigns, versus $1.45 billion on TV and radio ads. In 2008, candidates will buy search terms around issues like “health care reform” in addition to using behavioral targeting to identify undecided voters open to a candidate’s specific positions.
- Exit polls: In 2004, bloggers helped spread erroneous early exit poll results showing a Kerry win. In 2008, bloggers at the polls themselves will pour more fuel on the fire and make it an even bigger mess.
- Campaign blogs: In 2004, written obviously by press people. In 2008, they'll still be written by press people, but at least they will identify themselves. A few brave politicians will have blogs which they started while in office to discuss specific issues with their constituents. But fear of postings showing up in negative ads will keep true discourse to a minimum.
- Bloggers covering the conventions: A few dozen credentialed bloggers made it to the convention floor in 2004. In 2008, the delegates themselves will be blogging, providing unique viewpoints on the convention side events.
- Truth squads: In 2004, bloggers made Bush's military service a footnote and put Big Media on notice. In 2008, the Internet and individuals will form the "Fifth Estate", also called We Media and Citizen's Media, which will keep candidates accountable.
- Third party candidates: Nader wasn’t relevant in 2004. In 2008, there will be a candidate that runs an “open source” presidential campaign, primarily online. She (I’m being optimistic) use will wikis to develop the platform her supporters want and she’ll blog to connect with her disparate base. Although they will be small, they will be heard.
- The youth vote: They didn’t increase their participation in 2004 because they did not see themselves in any of the candidates – so why bother? In 2008, their cynicism will be shattered by the open source candidate and they will join the Fifth Estate. They will finally show up at the polls because they will have found someone who actually listened to them.
To 2006 and 2008 political hopefuls -- Hillary and John McCain included -- you'll do well to experiment early and often over the next few years. The Internet is here to stay and you can either embrace it or watch from the sidelines as your opponent does.