Presidential Elections 2.0

America is voting – and one thing for sure, regardless of who wins, the American political system will never be the same. For one, following the staggering amount of money raised by Obama, public financing of elections is dead. Kaput. Zeh-who.

But what is more interesting from our perspective, and we have already started to hear some analysis, is the significant use of the Internet and social media tools in this election. What began as a (successful) experiment by Howard Dean in 2004 has been raised to an art form and fundamentally changed by the Obama organization.

According to a story by Adam Nagourney in today’s The New York Times:

“The year campaigns leveraged the Internet in ways never imagined. The year we went to warp speed. The year the paradigm got turned upside down and truly became bottom up instead of top down.

It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage — and withstand — political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago.”

And let us all not forget YouTube and the influence it has played – and helped connect those of us living overseas to the nitty-gritty of the political races. Whether it was speeches by the candidates, the ‘Yes We Can’ Obama video or Sarah Silverman’s comedy, YouTube has been on the scene and succeeded in reaching millions.

Do you remember back to the 2004 election? YouTube didn’t even exist. Imagine!

The lessons for nonprofit advocacy, donor acquisition, retention and solicitation are huge. I’m certain we will have more to say as the lessons learned begin to be dissected, commented upon, etc. In the meantime, for those of you interested in how technology has played out in this election cycle, here are three good starting point articles:

from The New York Times:

A Sea Change for Politics as We Know It

Even more crucial to the way this campaign has transformed politics has been Mr. Obama’s success at using the Internet to build a huge network of contributors that permitted him to raise enough money — after declining to participate in the public financing system — to expand the map and compete in traditionally Republican states.

from Wired Magazine:

Obama’s Secret Weapons: Internet, Databases and Psychology

The Obama campaign has been building, tweaking and tinkering with its technology and organizational infrastructure since it kicked off in February 2007, and today has most sophisticated organizing apparatus of any presidential campaign in history. Previous political campaigns have tapped the internet in innovative ways — Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential run, and Ron Paul’s bid for this year’s Republican nomination, to name two. But Obama is the first to successfully integrate technology with a revamped model of political organization that stresses volunteer participation and feedback on a massive scale, erecting a vast, intricate machine set to fuel an unprecedented get-out-the-vote drive in the final days before Tuesday’s election.

from Technology Review (registration required):

How Obama Really Did It

Throughout the political season, the Obama campaign has dominated new media, capitalizing on a confluence of trends. Americans are more able to access media-rich content online; 55 percent have broadband Internet connections at home, double the figure for spring 2004. Social-networking technologies have matured, and more Americans are comfortable with them. Although the 2004 Dean campaign broke ground with its online meeting technologies and blogging, “people didn’t quite have the facility,” says Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor who has given the Obama campaign Internet policy advice (Lessig wrote The People Own Ideas! in our May/June 2005 issue). “The world has now caught up with the technology.” The Obama campaign, he adds, recognized this early: “The key networking advance in the Obama field operation was really deploying community -building tools in a smart way from the very beginning.”