July 18, 2014

Old political ad

Political ads have come along way since McKinley and Roosevelt. Credit: Jbarta / Wikimedia Commons

Guest:

Are you ready for a techie arms race between Democrats and Republicans?

“Democrats generally do a much better job of getting coders and other very sophisticated technical people to work on their campaigns,” says Jonathan Alter, an MSNBC contributor and author of “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.”

“The Republican Party is furiously trying to close the geek gap and get up to speed on digital technology.”

Why are the political parties snapping up techies like Google gobbles companies?

If you look beyond the flashy political headlines – Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush – there’s a story that doesn’t get nearly as much coverage, but has a far greater impact on all of us.

Technology is quickly transforming how and why people vote.

“The 2012 campaign was the first true digital campaign in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to master radio and John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan mastered television,” says Alter.

One technology that the Obama campaign used in 2012 identifies what TV shows potential voters are watching at certain times. Then, instead of doing a statewide media buy, they can target their ads to specific audiences, like women over 50 who live in households earning under $75K.

However, Alter notes that while tech workers are in high demand during campaigns, once the election is over, it's difficult to get those people into government.

“Almost none of the Obama campaign workers went to work in the Obama administration when the 2012 campaign was over. There was too much money to be made hanging out their shingle with a new company, being a consultant, whatever,” says Alter. “You can draw at least an indirect line between that and the failures of healthcare.gov.”

Technology is crucial, Alter believes, but winning votes will always be more complex than an algorithm.

“A lot of the future of the Democratic Party depends on its ability to convince younger voters that they shouldn’t get cynical about government.”

Culture, politics, elections, republicans, Jonathan Alter, democrats

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