08 May 2007

in which the bloggers discuss their influence

Jerome and Duncan are discussing why they blog, and Jerome is offering some wisdom on how to be an influential blogger on political issues:
1) Raise money for candidates: You don't have to raise a lot to be meaningful. Even a few thousand dollars from a few hundred people matters if it's early enough... And if you can't raise any money at all, my guess is that you're just not trying. Asking for money isn't easy, but again, neither is creating change or building power. If you don't want to do it, then don't whine about people who are willing to do it using the power they create for stuff they care about.

A couple of things come to mind. First, Jerome lists a few more things, but in a sense he could really stop with number 1.

When Jon Tester was running low on cash in his Senate race as election day approached, it was the Democratic "netroots" that supplied the quick infusion he needed. That got the attention of the DSCC and the DNC and now it seems every candidate wants to do blogger conference calls, coffees, and what-have-you.

Bloggers have disproportionate influence on the political process not simply because they can raise money, but because they can potentially raise it from large and dispersed groups. The fact that individual donations are small actually increases their influence. Here's why: contributors who immediately "max out" on their campaign contributions don't have to be asked again. A small donor indicates her or his willingness to give, and prompts the campaign to ask for money again - providing the contributor an opportunity to talk about priority issues.

Since Jerome and bloggers like him are constantly collecting and distributing donations from the disperse communities bloggers have created, the blogger becomes the center of constant influence. The campaign finance system as currently constructed prompts the campaign to care more about Jerome than his readers -- but we all understand that Jerome derives his power from the community he's helped assemble.

Let's be candid: the campaign finance system as currently constructed coerces us into a discussion about money first and issues second. I'll be interested in knowing how the campaigns interact with the online communities that care deeply about issues but are NOT about fundraising. That's when the really smart issues-based online communicators will take center stage.

For example, look at The Soccer Mom Vote -- a collection of moms from diverse political backgrounds getting together to talk about issues in a less polarizing context. It would be almost unseemly to pass the hat on behalf of a candidate or party in this community. But this is the community of the "persuadables" -- thoughtful, smart and responsible people who aren't driven by ideology. Mostly women who make 90 percent of the meaningful daily decisions in their families. This is the forum where the issues that Jerome and Duncan care so much about can be discussed in more depth and with less vitriol -- allowing positions to be developed and defined more organically. If you can convince the soccer moms, you might not have to convince anyone else, no matter how much money you have.

Soon the campaigns (and everyone else) will realize that the power to make individual decisions in a family has an enormous cash value.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

David,

Thank you for the good press! Of course, I agree. I think campaigns and businesses alike are just coming around to the realization that women and mothers are making the vast majority of the decisions for their families. We don't like lying, we don't like manipulation, and we have eyes in the backc of our heads. The sooner they figure that out, the sooner we can get on with the business of making rational decisions!