The American political landscape is being redefined right before our eyes by the Internet and the lessons its use has taught us about how to quickly find information we need and act on it. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have redefined how we connect with each other and keep track of fast moving events in our lives.
Crowdsourcing will end up being the phenomenon of the 2010 Election and those that follow brought about by the growth in size and influence of a leaderless group of people who share common concerns and want to do something about it. It has enabled and empowered a leaderless TEA Party movement to redefine the issues of the campaign and force both parties to pay attention to our citizen “pain points.”
Crowdsourcing was first coined used by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing“. Howe said that technological advances had driven down the price of consumer electronics so that the gap between the technologies we use at work professionals is no longer prohibitive for use of the same technology at home. In fact, since he wrote that in 2006 the fast rise of mobile web access with smart phones and other devices means individual users may actually be the early adopters well before corporate IT permits such things as iPhones or build the business apps for iPads. Howe described a marketplace of ideas where companies could take advantage of the talent of the public, and said that “It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.”
Fast forward to 2010 when the TEA Party movement exploded on the stage the Democrats referred to it as a rebellion inside the Republican Party. But that was only partly correct. It was a rebellion but it is affecting both parties and changing everything from the alliances in Congress on key issues to the shape of the election issues to the strategies used by candidates, lobbyists and the political consultants who thought they knew how to run campaigns—until now.
While the Democrats mocked her Governor Sarah Pail tweeted them back with a speed and razor sharp retorts that cut to the bone many of the traditional political concepts. The success of TEA Party movement candidates is not caused solely by the crowdsourcing power of the TEA Party itself but by the speed with which crowdsourcing itself has been used to refine and hone the message to bring along many other people who share the same fears, angst and aspirations. It did not take Gallup Polls to get the message right, it only took about 24 hours of tweets.
Now the Democrats have ‘beat cheeks’ out of Washington DC as if they feel burned by its proximity and think running for cover back to their districts will let them get away with their traditional campaign strategy when things are going bad with their message—negative advertising. Only this time the tweets of fact checkers and the crowdsourced judgment of constituents produces a raucous turnout at campaign events and town hall meetings ready to give incumbent of both parties a rough time.
Crowdsourcing is the worst of both worlds for politicians. At one in the same time it nationalizes the election by galvanizing the crowd around their common concerns about the “big issues” such as Federal spending, deficits, ObamaCare, unemployment, rising taxes and other consequences of the progressive agenda the Democrats have pursued. At the same time, crowdsourcing makes all politics local as never before galvanizing the home town crowd to turn out to speak out.
Republicans thought they could just blame all the problems of the country on Democrats and that would be enough to win. Democrats thought they could blame Republicans for having no new ideas as if that absolved them of their sins of overreach. Crowdsourcing has delivered the “pox on both your houses” message to both parties.
Thomas Jefferson would love this rebellion at work today among the crowd.
But the real challenge may not be winning the 2010 election for new faces with new ideas. The challenge is going to be governing and using the same crowdsourcing tools that make it easy to blow the whistle on a political miscreant to instead search for a common ground solution that brings people together around consensus for changes we can really believe in that will turn the country around while there is still time to fix it.