Thursday, August 7, 2008

McCain campaign: Still trying to get the whole "internet" thing down

Back in May, the McCain campaign launched a plan to have its loyal followers seed the comment threads of left-wing blogs with trolls containing the GOP talking point of the day.

This was widely regarded as a bad move.

The first McCain talking point--laughable now, only three months later--for this distribution scheme stressed the importance of keeping the campaign rhetoric from both sides civil, "respectful of the goodness in each other."

Today, Chris at Open Left documents that the plan was a dud:

Curious to see how many people were participating in this project, I performed a Google search on one phrase in one of the two talking points: "respectful of the goodness in each other". There were about 150 results, most of which were either reports on the McCain speech where he says that phrase, or blog posts mocking the online campaign. Only six results appeared to be serious attempts to spread around the talking point.

So the project mobilized six people in three months--meaning, at that rate, that it could unleash the full potential of as many as 12 people onto the internet by Election Day 2008. (Note that more than 12 new political blogs were probably launched in the time it took me to type that sentence.)

This kind of turnout places Project "Spread the Word" on a par with . . . well, with all the previous GOP attempts to create the same kind of viral, bottom-up energy on the internet for the right that has worked so successfully for the left. Chris helpfully reviews the long line of those turkeys, including the NRCC's contest for video clips dissing the Democratic Congress: NRCC judges would select five finalists to be put to an online vote, but in the end only five videos were ever submitted. (Of course, Republicans are generally more comfortable when the whole untidy business of voting can be dispensed with, anyway, so they might not have seen this as a problem the way other groups might.)

Let's put aside for a moment the fact that any campaign would have a tough time exploiting the potential of the internet if the candidate in the driver's seat simply didn't understand what it was all about. The simple truth remains that the internet--which is a series of tubes, you may recall, rather than a big truck--is never going to work for the right the way it does for the left.

Radio is their medium: big barriers to entry, highly centralized messaging, and even pre-screened callers can be disconnected with the push of a button. It's not accidental, nor is it even very surprising, that the great cat-herding contest that is the American political and cultural left could not only survive, but positively thrive, on the internet in a way that the right simply can't manage. It's the inevitable 21st century expression of the classic Will Rogers remark: "I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat."

No comments: