OK – I know I’ve been quiet lately. I am trying to finish one career to start another (well, really two new ones). Having three jobs is pretty wearing. It’s not that there hasn’t been a lot going on and a lot to talk about! I just keep thinking about blogging and not doing it. I’ve resolved lately to carve out some time though… even if it’s just little observations here and there.
Today’s thoughts are about campaign financing from the public perspective – yeah, that’s you and me. I’ve never given to a campaign before, at least not for a politician. And I don’t tend to like being approached on the street or solicited by mail. This is a candidate I feel strongly about, however, more so than any other politician in my life. Of course, I’m talking about Obama.
That doesn’t mean that I would just run out and give money. As I mentioned, things have been a bit hectic. Knowing that you SHOULD do something is different from actually getting around to it – if I can’t find time to go to the grocery store, clean house, or get my hair cut because I’m working so hard, giving to a political campaign is just not going to be high on my list, no matter how important.
Nevertheless, they’ve managed to get a bunch of my donations, and I think it’s very telling how that happened. First, I found Barack Obama on Twitter. I decided to follow him, and oddly enough, he followed me back. I doubt he’s really reading all our posts ^.^ but it was kind of symbolic. Then I visited the website and signed up for e-mail updates. Then text messages – and yes, I was one of the first to know who the VP was :) That was cool.
Almost immediately, as you would expect, the e-mail requests for donations started coming to my inbox. But these were different. Each one was accompanied by a personal video – of Barack, Michelle, Joe, or the campaign manager. They talked about who they were, shared personal moments on the campaign, talked about the campaign strategy.
Those were the best ones, later in the game. It wasn’t hard to convince me to part with the first $100 or two. After that, I wanted to know what I was paying for. Well, they told us. In detail. Often a specific ad would come with the request for money that we were being asked to fund – that was not airing yet. They would explain why this particular ad right now and where it would be playing. Now Obama hasn’t had too many ads I disliked, most have been very positive. But if for any reason you didn’t want to fund a particular ad – well, you didn’t have to! I REALLY liked that.
Later came discussions of what exactly they were doing in battleground states that was costing so much money. It was nice to hear that, and to think we had some hope of taking Florida, for example. That might go a long way toward erasing the Al Gore pain of old.
The last tactic I personally enjoyed was grass roots matching funds. Everyone has employer matching funds – this was person to person – those that had given before matching new contributors and sending personal messages about why we support this candidate – and getting personal messages back from the person who got our match. That was fun, too.
All of this has contributed to Obama having more than 3 million contributors now. Each has given an AVERAGE of only $86. Compare that to lobbyists, PACs, and industry. Yet, he is so far outstripping McCain in fundraising that he is able to compete in places that no presidential candidate has bothered to before.
It doesn’t hurt that he has a huge army of volunteers (organized on the internet, of course) working for him on the ground. If you don’t have money, you can get lists of people in your neighborhood to call or visit and talk with – and they emphasize that this is just as important or more so. Ads go only so far.
I hope the fact that this personal fund-raising approach has beat the pants off of traditional campaign financing will change the face of politics forever. We’ve shown what our money can do as the vast public, $86 at a time. Go, Obama!
(and please keep sending those videos, twitters, and e-mails AFTER you become president)