the new political horse race: a modest proposal

Is it just me, or is money the only way to judge the health of a political campaign these days?  Of all the ways to measure an endeavor, is this really the best we can do?

Just for a moment, imagine arriving at a car wreck, jumping out to offer assistance, and suddenly being stopped by a member of the press and asked, “how much money do you have on hand?  Really?  Did your momma give it to you?”  If you are like me, you might think “Who the heck cares!  Something needs to be done here!”

And let’s take a look at what you are actually measuring.  Have you ever given money to a political campaign?  For the vast majority, the answer is no.  I would love to send John McCain a check for $4,600.00, but I have to hit Wal-Mart for back to school school shopping, and oh yeah, my mortgage is due.  So who does give?  I imagine there are three groups:  People with a financial stake in the outcome of the election (unions, trial lawyers, big business, insurance companies, etc), rich people who truly care about certain issues, and an occasional middle class person who is just mad enough to send in a check.  While I applaud their participation, thank the good Lord it isn’t just these groups who show up on election day.  

So, if we toss the money measurement (or as we say in the information technology world, “metric”) , what do we replace it with?  Here is an new idea:  How about measuring the number of people who actually commit their vote to a candidate?  This might reduce the early influence of special interests.  Not to mention the fact that it might force politicians to stop begging rich people for money long enough to get out there and shake some hands and kiss some babies.

But is this practical, or even possible?  I believe it is.  Let’s reflect upon a situation that we can all understand.  And, incidentally, a situation that is actually measured in dollars:  your checking account.

Lots of people do banking online.  If Bank of America can keep track of you and all of their other customers’ balances,  why can’t a candidate keep track of how many times he or she asks, “Can I have your vote on election day?”  And received a “yes” to that most sacred question?

I imagine skeptics reading this right now, shaking their heads.  “It will never work.  There are too many unknowns,” they are saying to themselves or anyone within earshot.  And that is ok.  There is at least one of those people in every meeting where I suggest a new application or new technology.  My favorite response like that came one day back in 1994 when I boldly proposed to a mid-sized organization that they connect their network to this network called “the Internet.”  The response? 

“Why would anyone want to do that?”

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1 Comment

  1. Mark Dowman said,

    July 25, 2007 at 4:39 am

    People do like change their minds, some are more fickle than others.

    This kind of metrics won’t do you any good for a number of years. You have to be able to view the trends and observe the changes over time. A single campaign’s data is not enough to predict from.

    But…
    Start gathering it now, might be a useful tool in the future.


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