From YouTube to blogging conventions, alternative media is shaping up to be a hot button issue for the 2008 presidential candidates. With another nod to the Internet grassroots movement – or netroots as those crazy kids like to call it – , Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd; former Sen. John Edwards ; and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, attended the Second Annual YearlyKos Convention in Chicago. Organized by liberal blogging titan DailyKos, the convention was also attended by approximately 1,500 bloggers, journalists, and party insiders.
Yes, we know, we tend to talk a lot about blogging and politics. But, the blend of traditional and often “old school” politicians with the blogworld is pretty astounding. The move not only underscores how important bloggers have become to political parties, but it also predicts how important “netroots” will be to next year’s presidential election. In a nation that begs for higher voter turnouts at the polls – especially among the younger portion of the population – the dynamics of netroots not only provide platforms for awareness and fundraising, but it is involving more people in the issues, giving them a stronger voice, and forcing candidates to pay attention.
Ever hear of ActBlue? They are a Democratic political action committee funded by online donations and have funded more than $25 million in donations since 2005 – all from bloggers. Social networking sites such as MySpace are also being used as fundraising tools – with each Democratic candidate having a profile page containing a bio, pictures, platforms, videos of speeches, and a wall loaded with comments from campaign supporters (ok, a few adversaries too). Democrats have made good use of the realm of alternative media, leading them to gain a ton of online supporters and raising twice as much online as the top three Republications, who have been resisting making significant outreach to the online community.
Republicans scoffed when first asked to participate in a YouTube debate, similar to the Democratic YouTube debate held in July. A few candidates called it “demeaning,” reinforcing the perception that they just don’t “get” the web. Though the party is making up for its YouTube snub by trying to schedule a date for the debate with CNN, could it be too late for the technologically savvy younger voters who are looking for a presidential candidate that is dialed into the online communities that they frequent? According to the New York Times, the Dems have more staff committed to online activities. Eight Democratic candidates have 39 people in their web department compared to 18 web staffers on nine Republican campaigns – when it comes to the web, the GOP seems to be a little less “Grand” and a little more “Old.”