If the 2008 election showed women one thing, it’s "yes we can." Hillary Clinton’s dynamic run for the presidency has forever opened doors for women seeking higher office. But there’s still much to be done. Even after all of our years of progress, we still gained very little in Congress this year and, in government nationally, women still hold a small percentage of elected offices. Moving forward, the ’08 campaigns proved that in order to compete and win all candidates will need to embrace the power of the Internet.
As we move toward more models of small donors and mass collaboration in campaigns and governance, we need a new framework that encompasses both the top-down and the bottom-up, as we saw with the Obama campaign and my.barackobama.com. It’s not just about message control; it’s about embracing constituents and energizing voters. And it’s about reaching out online and pounding the pavement offline.
I’ve worked with women candidates and women’s political organizations now at local, statewide and national levels, and I’ve noticed a pervasive fear of moving online. What we need to communicate is that we’re not giving up on the tried and true fundraising schemas of major donors or message-driven content. We’re augmenting that by reaching out to younger generations and new constituent groups who want to be engaged but are more comfortable doing so via laptop or cell phone than at hand-shaking events.
Every campaign is different, as is every candidate, and with geography always a key factor in elections not all locales are ready for massive social networking endeavors. However, not taking advantage of the benefits of e-mail, websites, blogs, online invitation systems, Facebook and other existing tools of the web automatically puts candidates at a disadvantage.
Women candidates and organizations supporting women candidates need to understand that this is only the beginning of the Internet’s role in the political process. 2008 signaled a shift in how campaigning will work in the future. Politics 2.0 entails realizing that in future campaigns, the winners online will more often be the winners overall. As community activists, volunteers, supporters and participants in this process, we must encourage and assist women who run in every aspect we can if we are ever to shatter the glass ceiling and achieve equal representation in our government.
Sarah Granger directed Internet strategy and operations in Gary Hart’s 2004 presidential exploratory committee, launching the first blog by a politician. She’s Managing Director of FutureCampaigns and a Contributing Editor for techPresident and MOMocrats.