by Joe Shea
June 27, 2016
THE SOCIAL MEDIA STATE
BRADENTON, Fla. -- There are at least two campaigns in contested elections; there is a public one, with which we are all familiar, and a private one, which few can see.
The public campaign consists of speeches and policy papers, tv, print and radio ads, personal appearances by the candidate and a stream of press releases.
The other campaign consists of teams of men and women, mostly allied not just with the candidate but the local party organization, that collectively spend countless hours scouring lists of registered voters, annotating those with updates about voters' current status, snd directing other teams of GOTV - Get Out The Vote - workers who make the endless phone calls and knock on the innumerable doors that define an election district.
Donald Trump has just one campaign; Hillary Clinton has both. It is already too late for Paul Manafort and other Trump professional staff to create the second campaign, and even with his vast personal resources - $10 billion, he says - to rely wholly on the first campaign.
He is forced under these circumstances to create a new kind of campaign whose principal medium is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest of it: a campaign on social media. It has never been done, but it can be done, and he'd better start doing it soon.
There is a presumption deep in the heart of the political world that it is only the second campaign that really gets a candidate elected. The party workers who toil day and night to elect their man or woman is so far the most effective political tool there has ever been.
Personal popularity of the kind Trump enjoys has never been known to win an important election, with perhaps one exception: the late Sen. George Aiken of Vermont, a crusty, trusted, rock of principle and patriotism, told me in 1974 that he spent only $18 on his re-election.
The cost of a social media campaign, depending on the number of volunteers acquired by the candidate, can be incredibly low compared to the cost of broadcast and print media.
Posts on YouTube viewed a couple of million times, and Facebook "likes" that mount into the billions, and similar efforts can corral a substantial electorate, I believe, even in a presidential election. And for Trump, with less than 100 days to go before the general election, it will have to do.
I have run on my personal popularity for a number of offices. Because I'd appeared on Los Angeles-area television more than a hundred times, and had been praised in several prominent stories in the Los Angeles Times, I thought I might have a hidden constituency that could get me elected Mayor of L.A. But instead of the million-plus votes I needed, I got only 800, mostly from the Hollywood community where I lived.
That taught me, for the third or fourth time, that while publicity and personal popularity can help, it is the second campaign - those hard-working, unsung volunteers - that gets you elected.
Campaign professionals today would agree, and probably deride the idea that without the second campaign, a very far-reaching social media effort could elect a President of the United States.
Just two or three years ago, they would unquestionably have been correct. Today, though, things have changed. It's obvious everywhere that the Internet is the primary communications tool of our age, and that its skillful use can make the impossible happen. And as I say, Donald Trump has no other choice.
The result of his election by these means would be what I will name the Social Media State, an entity in which almost all important decisions are grown from a modest consensus created on the Internet.
As with everything else in this world, change is inevitable; only Mount Everest stands still. A paradigm shift from the volunteer model of the second campaign to a full-blown Internet-based campaign, is, if not already upon us, soon to come. As an Internet pioneer, I welcome it.
Joe Shea founded the first blog, online newspaper and Internet6 wire Service, The American Reporter, in 1995. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Supreme Court victory in Shea v. Reno (1997), protected the Internet from government censorship.