As a political consultant, I can’t get over how much money is still being wasted pandering to kiddies.
To capture the elusive “youth vote” in any election campaign, I keep hearing, apparently all you have to do is make a website or FaceBook page, set up a Twitter account and throw a few parties. That’s what now substitutes for political strategy in the wake of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election victory. Obama had a fancy website, ergo Obama won. That’s the brilliant logic that has been etched into the minds of some of the more shallow-minded strategists.
But the youth vote in 2008 wasn’t much higher than it was when John Kerry ran against George W Bush. Not significantly higher, anyway. While the majority of young people who did turn out in 2008 voted for Obama, this success can’t be tied to any website or modern technology efforts. Rather, young voters simply liked that Obama knew how to operate a BlackBerry while they suspected that McCain was probably still changing the ribbon on his typewriter.
Any young voter who is mature enough to actually get out of the house and cast a ballot on voting day will be influenced by exactly the same factors as everyone else: issues, and whether the candidate is someone you would want to have a beer with. Sure, they’ll come to your free concerts and parties and eat your free food, but unless Britney Spears serenades them in the voting booth while personally shoving Cheetos into their mouth as they mark the X beside your guy’s name, then none of it will translate.
I’m sick of the clusterhug of middle-aged politicians with no knowledge of technology relying on anti-social “social media experts” with freshly cut political umbilical cords. Here’s how the conversation goes:
Politician: “How can we use this ’social media’ thingy, or whatever you call it, to make all these kids and losers who never move from ithe computer feel that I actually give a damn about them?”
Social Media Wonk: “We can tell them to go to our website and give us their cell phone numbers so Bob the Intern here can spam them with ‘caring’ messages which they will believe to be from you. And we can get them to send us petitions for various idiot causes through the website.”
Politician: “Petitions? I don’t have time for… ”
SMW: “Oh no, no, no we don’t actually read them. We’ll just retrieve the odd one from the cyber-abyss so they keep logging on, thinking maybe they’ll get through. Like a lottery, except without any chance of winning money.”
Politician: “I like that! So it looks like I’m doing work and care and all that.”
SMW: “Precisely. And we’ll set up a Twitter account for you.”
Politician: “Twitter! I’ve heard of that. You know, this is so cool!”
THREE WEEKS LATER…
Young voter: “How do I get off this jerk politician’s spam list?”