Posts about youtubecampaign

America, where money is king

I’ve found quite considerable interest in the election here in London and just spoke with an editor who said it is higher than he has ever seen it. Tie this with a recent Pew survey that found that 20 percent of people who followed the election online went to foreign sources. So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing incisive coverage of the election coming from over here. See, for example, Gary Younge’s column in the Guardian arguing that money is still king in our elections and wondering whether the internet can or would unseat that.

We have no idea yet what role the internet will play in next year’s presidential election. First, it is too early in the process. Second, the pace at which the medium is developing means that the campaigning tool of choice probably has not been invented yet. Back in 2003 it took Howard Dean six months to compile an email list of 139,000. But that was before networking sites such as MySpace. In less than two months Barack Obama has gathered more than 310,000 supporters on

What is certain is that the internet will play a vital, possibly decisive, role; and in all likelihood that role will come into conflict with the established kingmakers. Neither trend is new. But the power of money and the modem are both driven by different and, arguably, contradictory forces. At some stage something will have to give. . . .

While these tensions may play out as a battle between left and right, or doves and hawks, they will in essence represent a far more fundamental shift in the relationship of the professional political class with the politically engaged public – a struggle between the popular and the oligarchic, between the bespoke message of the paid consultant and the chaos of freewheeling public opinion. Sadly, it won’t change the centrality of money in American politics – the internet is a crucial fundraising tool. But by enabling thousands of small donors to contribute, it has already proved its potential to provide an alternative funding base. . . .

We should have no illusions about who has the upper hand in this battle between big money and burgeoning activism. At a meeting in New York to support Hillary Clinton last week, organised through, the host told us that since Hillary had the votes of New Yorkers sewn up, all she really needed the town for was money. . . .

It suits the mythology of meritocracy that remains so central to American identity to have young children walking around in T-shirts saying “Future president of America”. But the truth is if your kid really does stand a chance at the top office, he’ll already be wearing more expensive attire. America’s class system is now more rigid than most in Europe, and that sclerosis is given full expression at the highest levels of politics. Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, Chicago mayor Richard Daley and Southern Christian Leadership Conference head Martin Luther King all carry the names and job titles of their fathers. Each year the richest quarter per cent make 80% of all political donations. The last time there was not a Clinton or a Bush on the presidential ticket was 1976. This is not democracy, it is dynasty.

A brick at a time. A brick at a time.

New at PrezVid

Just posted at PrezVid on how the Brits (and French) are doing better in their video campaigning at showing us more candid moments and thus candor, in response to a TechPresident post by Micah Sifry. Another about the ridiculous conservative harumphing about Rudy Giuliani’s life in drag.

Meanwhile, at PrezVid

Some new posts of note over at my PrezVid vlog/blog:

* My interview with Loic Le Meur, adviser and vlogger for conservative French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, about the amazing video action happening in the campaign over there. For all the attention American candidates are getting in our YouTube election, the video scene in France’s election is far ahead, moreso on Sarkozy’s site than on that of his liberal opponent, Segolene Royal (you supply the accents, please).

* John Edwards tells WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that this is, indeed, the YouTube election … and he’s not bothered by all the hair jokes.

* Watch Hillary at Google.

Why PrezVid?

Since I dove right into PrezVid without an introductory post and mission statement and because I’m talking about the YouTube campaign on Monday with Faith Salie on her public-radio show (which has been on my iTunes subscription list for a few weeks; I’m a fast fan), I thought I should answer the questions: Why PrezVid? And what will PrezVid do? Of course, I have many answers:

First, almost every one of the presidential candidates is using YouTube and internet video to open up a new channel to voters. As I said in my Guardian column, this is an eye-to-eye medium that lets the candidates speak directly to individuals on a small screen instead of from a big platform. It lets them control the message and set the agenda and tone. It enables them to bypass the soundbiting of network news (yes, the messages are still short, but you can say a helluva lot more in two minutes than in 10 seconds and you can control what is said).

Second, voters in the field are taping everything the candidates do. I say this is good; it makes the campaigns more public. Will we have our macaca moments? Oh, you bet. Sometimes, this will reveal the candidates’ true character. But sometimes, it will merely confirm that we’re all human and all screw up. The question will be: how well will media and the electorate distinguish between the two?

Third, this allows us, the voters, to see the candidates in a new light. Of course, they are still controlled and stage-managed. But still, more exposure to them that we get, the better we can judge both their words and their character. See the change not just in what Mitt Romney said but in how he acted in 1994 versus today (more on that later).

Fourth, internet video helps us speak back to the candidates. The politicians are trying to manage this as well: see McCain with his questions via YouTube. But there’ll be plenty of uncontrolled talking-back: see The Real McCain.

Fifth, this will give us all an opportunity to see the campaign commercials that, in recent years, could be seen only in battleground states. I hope this will put a harsher light on filthy campaigning. We’ll see.

So PrezVid will track the course of the YouTube campaign through video everywhere. We will show you the videos we think that matter — from candidates, from citizens, and from remixers. We will look at how internet video affects the campaign and the country. We will offer criticism and commentary. And we’ll have some fun. And we’ll do that both in blog posts and in vlog shows.

Are campaigns conversations?

Patrick Ruffini says that campaigns are not conversations and he’ll be surprised to hear that I agree with him. He says:

“Campaigns are conversations.” If I hear this one more time, I swear my head is going to explode. Campaign 2008 already has its most overused cliche, at least among us techie types.

“Let the conversation begin,” blares Hillary Clinton’s Web site. “Start the conversation,” says Chris Dodd’s. “This campaign is about YOU,” proclaims Barack Obama’s. Jeff Jarvis has a new blog on Presidential video dedicated to the Platonic ideal of campaigns as a neverending bull session with the voters.

Problem is, I don’t get the point of this exactly. At some level, this seems like no more than a basic transposition of Doc Searls’ “markets are conversations,” which is brilliant as applied to business because markets are inherently leaderless. It’s trickier to apply this pure and abstract ideal to politics where the voice of the people matters but where voters can and do evaluate candidates as leaders who stand on principle and don’t just do things because they’re popular.

He’s right. The comment I left there:

Actually, I don’t say that campaigns are conversations. In the end, a campaign must be propagandistic: It must be the candidate getting his or her views spread, which includes making your allies spread them for you. The only thing two-way about the Dean campaign was the organizational end (‘hey, kids, let’s invade Iowa’). The messaging was and inevitably is one-way, once the candidate has a stand — and once the campaign has begun, he or she better have a stand. I don’t use propaganstic pejoratively; it’s reality.

Having said that, you’re also right that candidates must listen and there are new ways to listen. So they can be more conversational.

But my real point about the use of YouTube et al is that it allows the candidates to act more conversationally, to look us right in the eye on our small screens after we’ve clicked and talk to us quietly, at a human scale, not from a big platform in a huge crowd. Maybe, just maybe, it also allows us, the voters, to be heard better. But we’ll see.

(Crossposted at