Viewpoint: May the best candidate (really) win
By Herbert Sweren and Barry Silverman
From Tea Party ralliers to the Occupy Movement, Americans share a common level of frustration not seen since the Great Depression. There are daily cries for better leadership and an end to “politics as usual.”
One solution is to elect better leaders at the local and state level. And to do that, we must change the “war chest” mentality that currently rules political campaigns.
Too many smart, well-meaning – but underfunded – candidates lose in local elections to candidates who may not be well-versed in the issues, but are well-heeled in terms of financial backing. And let’s face it: Taking money out of the equation isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
So it’s time for politics to take a page from business. The past two decades have taught us that being the biggest company and spending the most money doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Look at the many upstart companies that have managed to combine technology with good old-fashioned smarts to outmaneuver larger, better-established competitors.
To neutralize the biggest campaign war chests, candidates need to take advantage of the technology at their disposal and surround themselves with street-smart political advisors who know how to interpret that technology and work it to their advantage.
For example, candidates no longer need waste valuable staff time and effort poring over maps to determine where likely voters are. Reasonably priced technology now allows candidates to do that more efficiently. Software also is available to organize door-to-door canvassing and see how residents voted in the previous election.
Technology can be used to efficiently manage an election-day strategy so that sufficient numbers of volunteers are assigned to polling sites with the most voter-rich precincts. Costs associated with holding town hall meetings can be vastly reduced by holding video town halls via the campaign website. Candidates also can harness the power of social media to take grassroots campaigning to a whole new level.
Technology alone cannot do the job. But combining election-tested political acumen with available technology can go a long way toward reducing the impact of money on political campaigns. And that, in turn, can mean that better candidates – not just better financed candidates – will stand a chance of being elected.
Herbert Sweren and Barry Silverman are the co-founders of Baltimore-based CampaignON, a national campaign management and advisory company geared to candidates and incumbents on the state and local level.