After the exciting efforts of Howard Dean and Barack Obama, clueless politico types everywhere have come to the conclusion that anyone, literally anyone, can be elected to office using the mystical powers of the Internet. Sayfie Review has a column up about the 2010 Senate race saying exactly that. Republicans meanwhile are absolutely convinced there's nothing wrong with their message; its just they don't have enough Twitter accounts and Facebook friends to properly convey it anymore.
The thought that exploiting the netroots as a one-size-fits-all answer to politicians of all stripes is as ridiculous as some random band thinking all it needs to do to score a record deal is collect tens of thousands of friends on MySpace and send out bulletins every hour. Just doesn't work. There's an art to successfully cultivating a good netroots campaign, and not just anyone can do it.
Four important points to keep in mind, after the jump.
1. Credibility on Niche Issues
This used to be pretty easy for Democrats looking for Internet fundraising. All they needed to do was be against the war in Iraq and have
some credibility on it. Barack Obama's nice little Illinois Senate speech against the war didn't actually do anything to stop it.
In that context, it was totally irrelevant (Hillary pointed this out
numerous times, but it backfired), but when he began running for president, it became the key issue that differentiated him from Clinton.
Now that we have our antiwar president and everyone thinks the Iraq War is just about the worst thing ever, opposition is less relevant.
So finding an issue that excites fanatics on the Net is a little
harder, but not impossible. Be super-green. Love the gays. Say
something counterintuitive but smart about the current economic situation.
Choose something and then have an intern send your remarks to a million
blogs that care about the issue (note: first make sure the
issue is of interest to at least a million blogs). Then attach
something in your record that makes you seem legit. It can be some
speech that no one cared about at the time, but you need to
convince people you're credible on the issue.
2. Be the Underdog and Make the Netroots Feel Important
The netroots will work especially hard for you if they think you can't
win without them. This might very well be bullshit, but try to make
them feel important. So build up your netroots support before you call
in President Clinton to host a fundraiser for you or before you get the
endorsement of mainstream party leaders. Even if you can call in the big dogs from
the beginning, this at least makes the Internerds think they started
the ball in motion and helped persuade all of these party leaders to
come and support their guy. Note: There are a few leaders, though, whose endorsement can come at any time, like that of Obama, Dean, or Gore.
3. Have a Nonstandard Bio
Netroots do not want to fuel political dynasties and blind ambition. So please have some
interesting story of why you entered politics. Or
just be some sort of minority. Gay candidates will be the hot new netroots cause, just watch.
If you do come from a political dynasty, try to frame yourself as
the rebel son/daughter or whatever. Say some random Bush relative ran some sincere pro-gay, pro-choice, antiwar campaign. That might
excite some corners of the politico Interwebs.
4. Don't Talk Too Much About How Cool You Are on the Internet
The Netroots appreciate a nod in their direction, but they don't want
to feel like they exist only to boost your ego. Do not make the number
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of Twitter friends you have a regular part of your stump speech. Do
continue to talk about the issues that made you popular with the
netroots in the first place.
So politicians can put up a million YouTube videos, update their Twitters every hour on the hour, and buy ads on MySpace, but if they don't do it right, they can come off as clueless as George Bush yammering on about "rumors on the Internets."