Conservatives Level the Playing Field in Political Technology

NDN and the affiliated New Politics Institute, have a long history of talking, thinking, and writing about the role of technology in politics. Indeed, that's how we got into this Global Mobile space way back in naught-six.  And all the "New Tools" papers NDN & NPI published back in the day are actually still an incredibly valuable resource for a campaign worker trying to figure out how to guide their candidate through a jungle of new technology: mobile, cable, blogs, search, social networking...

One of the assumed truths about technology in politics was that it inherently favored Democrats. Many early bloggers had a progressive bent, Silicon Valley has always been a lefty hotbed, and disruptive new technologies generaly seem to favor the party that is looking forward to a better future, rather than back at a better past.  Whatever the reason for the Dems' early advantage, it's quickly disappearing. As I've said before, all these tools are just that-- tools-- and they don't tend to take sides in any fight. 

Last week, the Dallas Morning News ran "Gov. Rick Perry's campaign is more text than talk." Perry, the incumbent in the Texas gubernatorial race, is skipping the yard signs, the phone banks, and pimply teenagers knocking on your door in favor of Twitter, e-mail, and pimply teenagers sending you Facebook messages. With more Millennials coming into the electorate and a growing number of Hispanics in the Texas population who are better reached via mobile web than landlines or door-knocking-- it only makes sense to run a tech-savvy campaign, and it was only a matter of time before the Republicans began to figure it out.

In the U.K., similar things are happening.  David Cameron's insurgent Conservatives are reaching voters via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other web apps, and, as our friend James Crabtree wrote in the FT last week, they're mastering search, e-mail, and databases-- all perhaps even more powerful than the aforementioned social networking tools. At an NDN/NPI/Global Mobile event a few weeks back, Crabtree explained how the Conservatives' very progressive-- even radical-- open government and open data proposals are leading the way and forcing Labour to keep up. And if you've got access to Wired UK, Crabtree has a 6,000 word bohoemoth that looks deep into the Conservatives' digital strategy.

All this is just to say-- the playing field is now flat.