Need for speed for campaigning

There are thousands of elections each year in the United States, and ever more candidates vying for those positions. For anyone who is running for the first time, competing for an electoral office seems daunting. Fortunately, there are organizations out there, such as Wellstone and Emerge, that help and educate first-time candidates in their quest.

While the technology for presidential and gubernatorial campaigns has grown leaps and bounds in the past decade, the technology used by local campaigns is primitive at best. It is still a common practice for a campaign to pay up to five thousand dollars for a basic web presence — website, a Facebook page and etc. Just a perspective, a simple website created on costs $15 bucks a month.

Why is this the case?

The business model for campaigns is broken. Americans are used to donating their hard-earned money to national organizations such as the Democratic National Committee — DNC. These organizations in turn spend all their money on races that are perceived to be winnable. There are a couple problems here. For one, it’s difficult to start a business when you have only one or at most two customers (the other is the Republican party). Secondly, the races that capture the attention of these committees receive a disproportionate amount of attention and resources. As a result, there’s an active and lucrative consulting industry at hand that helps a few dozen campaigns.

But that’s bad for democracy. To create a vibrant society, we need to maximize democratic participation. One of the best ways to do so is to encourage as many people to run for office as possible. We can do that by lowering the barrier of such an endeavor. With the technology we have today, this can be done quickly.

What we need is a turn-key campaign solution that is assembled using the plethora of free services available. A candidate should be able to start his/her campaign on day one armed with a full web presence with a click of a button. Templates for email campaigns should be readily available, and standard analytics should be at their fingertips.

Smaller campaigns go through the same phases each election cycles. These processes should be automated and systematized. Let’s learn from our space program — and not rebuild everything each time.

Apollo 11. Can we learn from the past?

As for the business model, we need to move away from the business of having just a few paying customers to a mass-market model. Imagine a primary with hundreds of candidates duking it out. Collectively, these candidates represent a sizable market.

I am hopeful that running for office can one day be so easy and effortless that the only thing a candidate needs to worry about is their interaction with the voters. I think that will make us a more democratic and equitable society.

I am ready, are you?