Savvy Politicos Will Keep Net Outreach Front and Center

By Chris Nolan  |  Posted 2004-11-17 Print this article Print

Opinion: Although the presidential election cycle is over, both Republican and Democratic senators would be wise to keep using the power of the Internet to broaden their support.

This presidential election cycle was as tech-rich as any weve seen. Weblogs, Meetups, Moveons, click-through fund-raising and—most of all—e-mail were put to use on both sides, Republican and Democratic, to get the word, the vote and the message out. The Internet, with its roughly 132 million users, is now part of the election process. It has leveled the fund-raising gulf between Republicans and Democrats. There was lots of liberal political talk in tech circles, but the Net was used with cool efficiency by Republicans. The Bush-Cheney re-election efforts 6 million e-mail addresses —and the information the party sent to volunteers working on its behalf via those addresses—played a key role in Republicans victory.
But the fun doesnt stop with the end of a presidential election cycle.
Were already getting an inkling of what things might look like. Republican party activists are trying to keep their momentum going with sites such as, started by founders, to keep Sen. Arlen Specter from taking the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The site is urging readers to write, call or fax their local senator to urge that Specter not be elected to the committee chairmanship. Granted, RedState, which recently organized as a 527 political activist group, isnt relying solely on e-mail. But the goal—using technology to get folks to take action and speak out—is the same. The Senate should continue to be the site of the most heated action over the next two years. Why? The Senate confirms judicial and Cabinet appointments, so itll be the center of the most heated exchanges between the two parties. Click here for a recap of todays biggest tech battles—and how the changes in Congress will affect them. The Senate has a Republican majority, but 60 voters are needed to stop a filibuster, an open-ended debate that senators use to block action. A crafty political organizer—Democrat or Republican—might follow RedStates lead in using the power of the Internet by e-mailing voters to urge them to lobby their senators on a vote for or against the end of a filibuster. Its likely to happen because three senators, all with their own ambition for higher office—the presidency—also have their own sites and e-mail addresses. Barack Obama, one of the few Democrats to claim a seat in the U.S. Senate this year, has the "Barack Brigade." Democratic nominee John Kerrys list is said to have more than 2 million names. New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton also has the "Friends of Hillary." The potential for any of these senators to influence voters outside of their immediate constituencies is not trivial. Since they are national figures, they have attracted and cultivated supporters in all states and can easily get more; its part of their long-range strategy. Next Page: The parties sort out their responses.

Standalone journalist Chris Nolan runs 'Politics from Left to Right,' a political Web site at that focuses on the intersection of politics, technology and business issues in San Francisco, in California and on the national scene.

Nolan's work is well-known to tech-savvy readers. Her weekly syndicated column, 'Talk is Cheap,' appeared in The New York Post, Upside, and other publications. Debuting in 1997 at the beginnings of the Internet stock boom, it covered a wide variety of topics and was well regarded for its humor, insight and news value.

Nolan has led her peers in breaking important stories. Her reporting on Silicon Valley banker Frank Quattrone was the first to uncover the now infamous 'friend of Frank' accounts and led, eventually, to Quattrone's conviction on obstruction of justice charges.

In addition to columns and Weblogging, Nolan's work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Fortune, Business 2.0 and Condé, Nast Traveler, and she has spoken frequently on the impact of Weblogging on politics and journalism.

Before moving to San Francisco, Nolan, who has more than 20 years of reporting experience, wrote about politics and technology in Washington, D.C., for a series of television trade magazines. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.


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