The YouTube Election meets “The Campaignster”

August 23rd, 2006 by Larry Smith

Sunday’s piece in the New York Times, The YouTube Election, takes a bird’s-eye view at how our cameras-rolling, watch-what-you-say-on-Colbert political culture is changing the nature of campaigning.

“If campaigns resemble reality television, where any moment of a candidate’s life can be captured on film and posted on the Web, will the last shreds of authenticity be stripped from our public officials? Will candidates be pushed further into a scripted bubble? In short, will YouTube democratize politics, or destroy it?”

These are some of the questions Tate Hausman will ask and maybe even answer in SMITH’s newest column, The Campaignster: Political campaign tactics in the age of MySpace. Hausman offers what we call the “chicken’s eye” or groundfloor view of the campaign process. How do you employ the promise of YouTube, MySpace, text messaging and other once nonexistent and now ubiquitous entities for your candidate? How do you avoid their possible peril? That’s Hausman’s gig from now until November as he works on two democratic congressional candidates’ campaigns. He writes:

After going all out in ‘03 (Huffington for CA Governor), giving it everything I had in ‘04 (Dean, then Kerry), and spending all of ‘05 gearing up for more, now I feel … seasoned? No, that’s not exactly right. My job doesn’t allow for seasoning. It’s always new, always changing. Being the Online/Tech/Data /Wait-What’s-a-Blog? Guy keeps you learning, constantly. My set of tactics and knowledge base have probably doubled since the ‘04 cycle. And I command only a fraction of the knowledge out there. There’s inherent pleasure in expanding one’s horizons, but can you ever feel in control — even a little — when the Web is growing and changing constantly underneath you?

Ironically, we Web strategists are the very victims of the information age, constantly swamped with brave new worlds to explore and exploit. There’s an expectation that the “Web Guys” are on top of every new trend. As if we all blog, and tag, and Digg, and cruise MySpace, and YouTube, and mash Google Maps, and download every new and trendy Web2.0 widget that comes across our path. Yeah, right. When trying to elect your guy, you’re usually forced back to the basics — raising money, bringing in volunteers, maybe pushing a little message.

So seasoned is the wrong word. But there’s a certain calm that comes with age and experience. The interpersonal dramas of a campaign affect me much less. I take everything less personally. The big picture is easier to see, and the hurt of losing an internal strategy debate (or even just a wording choice) heals over quick. Which brings me to my current struggles.

Read the whole Diary here.