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The next morning, we recorded a 5-second video on an iPhone, taking us less than 30 minutes to produce. Just a few clicks and it was on Facebook, YouTube, and throughout the blogosphere, becoming our most popular message of the campaign.
Other campaigns paid good money to coordinate their media efforts, and used social media as an arm of their public relations strategy. But I noticed as candidates assigned others to post their material for them, it often backfired.
For young people especially, there's nothing more off-putting than canned, corny, cheesy political statements. In other words — if you're new to the "Face" just be yourself, answer the questions, and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
Lord knows, I made some silly statements. But I found people appreciated a human, imperfect politician.
Social media also served as a testing ground for campaign messaging. Instead of paying for a pricey pollster, I'd leak policy statements or ask questions on Facebook or Twitter. It allowed me to gauge anecdotally the mood of certain groups of people, and most importantly the media.
And because of the hotly contested U.S. Senate primary between Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter, earned media was very difficult to come by. But social media provided a more personalized window into the lives of candidates. Which is why, in our campaign, a small tweet was twice as effective as a press release.
While social media brought my campaign to new heights, it also became intrusive at times.
When you think of a political sex scandal, I'm assuming most would think of it involving an act occurring between two (or more) human beings (or animals if you live in South Carolina). But today, in the age of Facebook, the political sex scandal has gone virtually viral.
Not too long after announcing my candidacy, I started receiving e-mails and Facebook messages from random women who had supposedly met me at some time. What I thought to be your normal constituent e-mail exchange quickly turned into a young woman sharing nude photos. And, yes, her wanting me to do the same.
After respectfully declining, I started noticing more and more of these e-mails and messages from different women, and then web chat requests, and if iPhone had a sex scandal application, I'm pretty sure that would have popped up too. The evidence strongly suggested them to be politically coordinated, hoping I would do something stupid.
Now, I had a woman stalk me in the bathroom at an event; and I even caught someone videotaping me across from my apartment while changing. But political "sexting" on Facebook seemed almost surreal in a very post-modern way.
And so I was left wondering — really? I mean c'mon. Has the need for scandal really come to this? Apparently it has.
Perhaps what I've said is abundantly clear and offers no new insight. I wouldn't disagree, as it seems like every week a retired or recently-defeated politician comes forth to speak about the ills of politics.
But the real issue, I think, is the unspoken assumption in politics: that the voters are easy manipulated. To speak frankly, the practice of politics today treats people like they are stupid.
People with the most speak on behalf of those with the least, whether through donations, or what is claimed to be representative party leadership. We in politics assume, whether through commercials and carefully calibrated messaging, that you'll simply accept what we say.
And so the question becomes whether you are willing to do something about it.
Once described as the "art of the possible," politics is merely the paintbrush that transforms ideas into reality. And you are the one wielding that brush.
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