by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sadly, I am not able to work in politics due to the fact that I find politics incredibly boring. Also, there are some rules at TIME about journalists helping candidates, but mostly it’s the getting-bored thing.
But finally things are changing. Political research tools are getting more sophisticated just as citizens are becoming less sophisticated, thereby transforming campaigns into sorority-house fundraisers. But since no one really wants to go to a hugging booth manned by Carly Fiorina, a bikini car wash staffed by Bernie Sanders or a bachelor auction where the winner gets a night with Rick Santorum, they’ve tweaked the prizes. Supporters enter a lottery, usually donating a small fee, for the chance to have a candidate do something stupid for them. Hillary Clinton called five lucky winners’ moms on Mother’s Day. Marco Rubio flew a winner to Miami to see him declare his candidacy. Obama randomly selected small givers to a party with Sarah Jessica Parker and Anna Wintour.
These were ideas clearly created by nonprofessional stupid-idea creators. Which meant I finally had something to contribute to the world of politics. …
… To figure out exactly what [Ohio Senate candidate P.G.] Sittenfeld should offer, I sought advice from Joe Rospars, the former chief digital strategist for President Obama who pioneered these contests. He said they worked far better than he hoped in raising money, collecting email addresses and making Obama happy. “He gets to go to a normal-people restaurant and meet people who aren’t part of the moneyed and power elite asking for things,” Rospars said. He found that while tickets to a fundraising party with George Clooney worked great, C-list celebrities didn’t help. The chance to join a presidential conference call was not a big sell. And the free flight and hotel were more appealing than actually going to dinner with a candidate. This gave me hope.