Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Voter Donations - Good to the Last Drop

It's no secret that presidential campaigns have long been funded in the back hallways, behind closed doors, over $2,000 dinners. The candidate best able to rub elbows with generous donors is the one who has what it takes to get into the Office, and all the money they've made along the way will help buy the votes of the populous. We, the people, complain about Washington fat cats and the slimy lobbyists that feed them a calorie-rich supply of cash, but their win seems inevitable so long as they have all that money behind them.

The internet, it seems, is beginning to turn that notion on its head. If a candidate can't fleece the rich white men of this country in order to run their campaign, then he'll just turn to the people who will actually be voting for him. Yes, I know that it's no longer definitely just a 'he' that solicits the voters, but it is in this case. Barack Obama has done an amazing job at nickel and diming his supports to the second best-funded campaign on the ballot. He has twice as many under $200 donors as any other candidate, and often it's thrice as many or more.

What does this mean? Well, it means the funding is coming straight from the source, and that the phrase "vote with your dollar" has become that much more poignant. It also means that campaigns are taking a tip from modern business practices, namely, going after the long tail. This strategy consists partly of high-volume/low cost-per-return gains, where the organization exploits a massive participating population combined with a heretofore unseen ability to reach them. The open invite to take part, however, can result in a scattered and difficult to maintain user base. It's a little more risky when you

Candidates are using every method they can dream up to extend that beloved email list, and then bombarding it with rousing updates coupled with personal, desperate pleas for just a little more scratch. Kerry's recent endorsement of Obama may have been great fodder for late-night talk show hosts, but the fact is that it comes packaged with a long email list of people who have found politics a worthy cause at some point or another. Obama will assuredly take full advantage of the fresh new wells to pump. Even it comes drop by drop, sheer volume will help make that trickle into a respectable stream.

To sum it up: If Obama takes it this November, it could be a revolution for civic duty. Normal people may feel like their actions and their votes matter. In the end, it could be that the inexperienced Illinois senator may not be as good for this country as the well connected former First Lady. However, if the questionably effective capitalist tactic that flung him into the limelight results in the empowerment of the American public, then I'll take it.

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