The Risks and Rewards of Thompson’s New Site


Bill Thompson just opened a new website designed by Blue State Digital, which also designed Barack Obama’s campaign site.

First of all, I’m increasingly inclined to give my qualified support Thompson for mayor – I don’t know if it was pure election-grandstanding, but it seems like every time he  makes a public announcement of some kind, like his workaround of the MTA fare-hike, it’s generally sensible, effective, and conscious of class dynamics in the city (for instance, as Comptroller he got city pension funds to remove their money from companies that privatise formerly public housing in the city).

But that’s beside the point – I think this will be a test case in how well folks other than Obama can use his organizing model in their campaign strategy.  While I trust that Blue State won’t apply the Obama model whole-cloth, many of the central elements of the Obama campaign revolved around him specifically, and might not translate well into other campaigns.  When someone wins, it always makes their system look better than it probably is, and thevalidity of the organizing model will be need to be tested in a vareity of contexts.

Here are some of the risks I see in adopting the Obama model:

-Looking like an Obama hanger-on: to stick in people’s minds, you need to develop a distinctive personality.  The individualist tendancy in American politics asks that politicians be in a way self-made.  Trying to ride the coattails too overtly undermines credibility and might hurt the campaign.

-Social Media can hurt too: trying to mobilize folks via twitter/Facebook/etc. can become a conspicuous display of a lack of support as well.  Having 50 people on a Facebook group demonstrates weakness in a citywide or statewide campaign.  Thompson should be  sure that embracing new media will build support among his target constituencies before over embracing the technology.

-You need a good story: Obama mobilized a series of glittering generalities based on his personal story.  Thompson needs to develop a central story that reduces to a short-worded theme and three key policy proposals to organize people behind the campaign.  One of the clear differences between Obama and Thompson’s site is the lofty quote Obama put on the top of every page.  Thompson doesn’t have the same type of cred, or story to get people together.


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