The technological leapfrog

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It’s the nature of politics. Things leapfrog.

— Ed Gillespie, GOP strategist and former RNC chair

My last post discussed how the US conservatives have taken a leaf from the Left in their online community building and activism development. I’ve also written how opposition parties are often very innovative compared to the party in Government.

Following from this, I think it’s interesting how the US conservatives (and the Liberals here) have benefited from the cycle of innovation in campaigning.

In 2004, 2006 and 2008 the US Democrats were the innovators (even though they lost in 2004). Howard Dean and Move On showed how important email lists were for fundraising and turning people out to events. Obama took that to the next level in 2007 (primaries) and 2008 (election).

Similarly, in 2007 Labor and Kevin Rudd made big use of online tools to engage with supporters – as did the Rights at Work Campaign. Large email lists were essential for fundraising and getting important messages to supporters.

In 2009, the UK Tories used a range of tools that had never been used in Britain before – including crowdsourcing tools to help draft sections of their election platform.

Now, the Republicans are in opposition in America – and they are benefiting from the advancements made by their Democratic opponents.

Opposition movements are also able to tap into more energised supporters, who feel angry at losing – whereas the party of Government must often grapple with the politics of compromise, coalitions and managing expectations (c.f. Rudd, Obama).

It will be interesting to see if Labor in Australia, now a minority Government, can tap into the innovation cycle over the next two and a half years, in time for the 2012/13 election. I’m sure Ed Miliband, the new UK Labor leader will benefit from this cycle.

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