Campaigns and Elections: Shop Talk
Our Shoptalkers: Austin James, digital director for CMDI, a Republican finance services platform; Brian Ross Adams, an online branding and social media marketing consultant; Catherine Geanuracos, CEO of New Economy Campaigns; and Ron Robinson, digital director for the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.
C&E: Was the Left’s four-cycle digital evolution shaped more by its organizations or campaigns?
Geanuracos: I worked for MoveOn.org in 2004-2006 and it was super data driven in terms of its commitment to testing and analytics. We randomized voters and ran real voter experiments — academic-level experiments. We learned so much so fast. It was one of the most entrepreneurial organizations I ever worked for.
Adams: National organizations like MoveOn help develop these sophisticated digital tools, but the Republicans are very sophisticated about using those tools on local, down-ballot races. They’re picking up county judge and state assembly seats across the country. One of the things that the Democrats aren’t as good at is, there’s all this knowledge about data analysis and data, but when you go to these state assembly races, and judge races or supervisor races in L.A. County, they don’t use any of it because the profit motive is behind the mail consultants who aren’t as interested in using the data to target voters.
James: To this day people respect, and in a lot of ways are jealous of what was accomplished [at MoveOn]. Because there is a desire to organize for social change on the Left there was an early adoption of technology and I think that’s what changed everything. The ideology of the Democratic institutions is, ‘We want progressive change and the only way to do that is that you have a one-to-many movement,’ and you have to go have government reflect their ideology.
Whereas on the Right, the mentality is much more, ‘Do it on your own; bootstrap it.’ It’s a one-to-one communication. You go start your own thing and work toward your own success. There isn’t a necessity to change government to move legislation. On the Right, often times we’re fighting against more legislation.