Democrats lost the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016, partly because the Clinton campaign couldn’t compete in the arena of digital media.
But that was then. Now, it’s a whole new world, and Democratic 2020 candidates have all made using the internet effectively one of their top priorities.
And because of this, having a very competitive Democratic primary will actually help the ultimate nominee destroy Trump in November. This will give Democrats a chance to hone their digital skills against one another.
Speaking to POLITICO, Robby Mook, campaign manager for Clinton in 2016 pointed out how times have changed, saying:
“It’s fantastic we are seeing digital natives and digital experts in the highest ranks. Digital leaders in management roles is now the new normal.”
Mook pointed out that Democratic contenders are giving much more power to their digital directors in an effort to reach more voters.
In a way, they are copying Donald Trump who made his 2016 digital director, Brad Parscale, into his 2020 campaign manager.
What’s really going on is a reaction to the new ways that voters absorb campaign information. Social media is now leading the way, becoming much more important for many voters now than traditional TV or print media.
“President Donald Trump left many in Washington scratching their heads when he put his 2016 campaign’s digital chief in charge of his entire reelection effort,” POLITICO reported, but then pointed out:
“Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Beto O’Rourke are among the White House hopefuls replicating Trump’s approach by giving senior campaign leadership roles to data and social media mavens.”
“It’s a recognition of how central the online space — from raising breathtaking gobs of money via email to winning the minute-by-minute messaging wars on social media — has become to any candidate for the White House.”
According to POLITICO, digital strategists are happy about the change, since they believe they can reach people faster with their messaging. News cycles now often don’t even last for a full day, and many voters check for news updates continually throughout each 24 hour period.
Catherine Algeri, ex-digital director for both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, explained the situation this way:
“One of the underlying frustrations was, for a long time, feeling that digital wasn’t allowed to sit at the adults’ table.”
But now, they are at the head of the table.
Laura Olin, a Democratic digital strategist who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection, pointed out the importance of these new developments, saying:
“Now it’s just so clear that if you don’t have a senior leadership team that really understands how to dominate social media and the ways that news travels around the web, you’re just at a huge disadvantage.”
“Campaign vets say the new phenomenon of digital experts running campaigns is, to some extent, simple matriculation: With the internet first applied to politics in the early 2000s, the twenty-somethings who worked those campaigns are reaching campaign-manager age for the first time,”
According to POLITICO:
“Many American voters expect to be able to engage in politics online, and often through their mobile phones, the same way they engage in just about every other facet of their lives.”
Joe Trippi pioneered using the internet as a way to reach voters during Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s presidential run in 2008, and he says he’s glad that Democrats have caught up with the changing times. He said:
“Digital impacts so many different areas of the campaign, whether it’s fundraising, the platform you’re moving your media on, targeting, or organizing your volunteers.“
“And so people who are really proficient at it are actually better prepared to deal with campaign manager and deputy campaign manager jobs.”
The 2020 Democratic field of candidates will be the largest and most diverse in history. Although this creates some logistical and other problems, overall it is probably a good thing.
Bringing younger candidates onto the playing field does not hurt the Democratic Party in the long run. In fact, to the extent that this moves the party establishment fully into the digital age of the 21st century, it may turn out to be a very good thing.
And this may be the one new strategy that Democrats have that will allow them to totally destroy Donald Trump in the 2020 election, and send him ignominiously into retirement.