The Sky is Always Falling
Graduating from college? Too much student debt? Turned down (or turned off) by Wall Street? Consider the high-growth world of getting political candidates elected. Neither ideals nor philosophy required; just get the job done. Raise the money, assemble the team, frighten the voters, turn them out on Election Day and move on to the next race. There are prizes.
Your job-seeking competitors will be other millennials who tend to like things authentic. Most of them will hate this business because authentic it is not.
I learned about this exciting new field at the recent Campaign Tech East conference in Washington DC. Over the course of two days, there were more than 20 separate panels well spiced with speed networking breaks, cocktailing and lunches. This is a fast-changing world in which 2012 techniques will seem quaint as the 2016 election season heats up.
Among the 300 or so attendees, presumably some of whom were Republicans and some of whom were Democrats but most of whom would work for anyone, there was one common theme — so common as to be unanimous. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is the election professional’s version of holy writ. Every person in the room wants to increase the amount of money in politics because that is how they get paid.
Assuming you are not graduating from college, do not have too much student debt and are agnostic about Wall Street (if not favorably disposed), you might have a few concerns about the efforts of the participants in Campaign Tech East. Either they talk a good game or they are seriously good at manipulating voters into choosing their guy. And, of course, raising money.
Under the category of “social media enrichment,” one purveyor promises to “cross reference 99 different social networks to find your users and their favorite social networks – adding Klout scores and enabling you to find influencers and connect with your users across the web.” Most libertyPell readers will have not the slightest idea what a Klout score is and they will be shocked to learn that they have one. Klout measures the “influentialness” ranking every individual who has ever posted a picture of his grandchild on Facebook or signed up for Twitter. For political marketers, people with high Klout scores are the Holy Grail because they will pass along your message to their friends who will listen and follow their lead.
Another company promises US voter registration files encompassing actual voter registration data for all 50 states. The company has 184.5 million records though only 156.2 million are active voters. They can combine this with 156 million postal records 99 million phone records 49 million email addresses and 36 million cell phone numbers. In case you’re interested there are 81 million female voters in the United States, 68 million male voters, 52.4 million senior voters, 9.8 million Hispanic voters and 22.9 million African-American voters. Of these 39.5 million are Republicans, 55.9 million are Democrats, 55.3 million are independents and 9.1 million are “other.” Please feel free to choose your targeting options such as precinct, district, party affiliation, voter history and voter behavior. All of these are available for postal, phone, email and texting. This is the place to find “money bombs” and ” Robo calls” but you will be pleased to learn that the firm offers “deceased suppression.”
An early lesson in the mechanics of politics is that the deceased are far more useful as voters than as donors or volunteers. Presumably “deceased suppression” is turned off just before Election Day.
Another company is named after the Greek goddess Ossa who was, according to the firm’s brochure, “known to spread gossip by flying through the air and filling the clouds with rumors. Her words had the ability to make you famous or infamous! It is said that Ossa lived in a home with 1000 windows so that she could see and hear all being said in the world. Today’s rumors spread through the cloud of social media tweets and updates. We look to channel Ossa’s talents of listening to the social media gossip, deciphering the message and spreading the digital word.”
In a panel on political advertising, we learned that ads offer you the opportunity to talk to those who don’t want to hear from you. They are especially important because those who hate your message are the minds you need to change. The voters who like your message are already on your team so talking with them wastes your ad dollars. The creators of political advertisements are willing to annoy you because their job is to persuade not to entertain.
Political ads find you where you are and, more importantly, the people who are not there do not see them. For example, if you would like to reach a young male voter you might want to place an ad on his Xbox. His grandfather will never see this ad. This saves considerable money because campaigns have no interest in trying to persuade voters with arguments that are irrelevant to them. Focus student loan forgiveness on the young and saving Social Security on the old. This does, of course, permit a campaign to say just what a voter might want to hear with little risk of a voter who might disagree being the wiser.
As much as the Campaign Tech East participants love Citizens United, so do they hate “bots” that click on the ads (thus costing the campaign money) without actually being real people. Weeding out the “bots” seemed a very important topic though there might be a splendid new market in creating predatory “bots” to pick on your opponents and deplete their campaign treasuries. Wouldn’t is be splendid if your side could convert your opponent’s contributions into your paycheck by using bots?
In another panel on political fundraising, the audience was admonished not to treat donors like ATM machines. In fundraising, the message never changes: the sky is always falling.
Once you have found your loyal followers, it is very important to keep track of them and tracking their cell can do this. You can see which bars they go to and whom they see when they arrive. Something new and untested called “beacons” will enable a campaign to place targeted ads on the mobile devices of those in a specific place at a specific time. I got one at the conference though I was a doubtful prospect for the service.
What would you like to know about yourself? As the population ages and various forms of dementia increase, one solution might be to stop by your friendly political data collection firm to determine such things as where you live, what kind of car you drive, what magazines you subscribe to, where you shop, your drinking habits, your hobbies, your marital status, the number of children you have, how often you have voted and so forth. This is all cleverly arranged by voting district and you can see it on a map. I checked my own records (even though center-right voters in the District of Columbia are of little interest to anyone) and they were accurate. I checked a friend’s record, a person I know pretty well, and his records were also accurate except I don’t think he owns a horse.
Do you like winning prizes? Campaigns & Elections Magazine offers annual awards in many categories including automated phone calls, direct mail, yard signs, logo and branding, live phone calls, online fundraising, each of these in Spanish, apps, mobile technology, social networking, web video and a separate category called bare knuckled street fighting.
So back to our student in need of a job. The demographics at Campaign Tech East were nearly 100% Caucasian. Importantly, about 80% of the participants were male and only two people were wearing ties. One was a female and the other was trying to get noticed. The only contact information that was provided for any of the panelists or participants was the twitter handle. No email address, no cell phone number and, heaven knows no street address. In addition to being a fine job opportunity, the dating odds seem to favor women.
And, for reasons utterly unknown to me, one panelist suggested that Jesuits made the best employees.
Little wonder we feel as we often do about our government when the sky is always falling. And being made to appear so. Quite profitably it seems.