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Partisanship and political technology

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 at 11:38PM
Posted by Registered CommenterPolitical Mammal in Political Technology

I was thinking more about the upcoming Politics Online conference and remembering my last few “public” appearances and what I tried to say at each of them. At one of the, 2004 Progressive Tech conference, I was asked the question “Is it important to be a Democratic-only firm in this market?”

In response to that question I cited a call that I had had from a Wall Street Journal reporter asking the same question. He was puzzled about why a software company would voluntarily cut its market in half. He went on to write an article on the subject that featured my firm and a competing firm that styles itself "nonpartisan."

My answer, both to the reporter and at the conference, is that it is not necessary to be a Democratic-only firm. I listed the some of the advantages to being non-partisan: among them a larger potential market, economies of scale, and not competing with your competition in part of the space, thus giving them a free ride.

At the conference I talked a little about my experience providing database technology to campaigns and organizations. I said that campaigns are not an easy market: they are not generally tech-savvy -- they have high turnover -- they are short-lived -- they have many special needs.

I noted that no one chooses a Democratic-only vendor if they think they are getting an inferior product.

I then suggested some of the advantages to partisan status. I said I felt that partisanship helps make us a better business -- it gives us motivation through a sense of working for the "good guys.” I said that campaigns are a service business. (I neglected that night to give examples, but I was thinking of numerous ones that I could have cited. For example, Louis staying up until 2:00 AM helping Kerry for President file FEC reports, Erin working late on data conversions for America Votes, Danielle and others working all night to launch a new version of the web-based software.) I also said that partisanship can affect the trust of sensitive clients and can help build relationships with party committees, consultants, and allied organizations.

I concluded by noting that when I started my company in 1997, I did not choose Democrat-only as a marketing strategy. I simply wanted to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of my work and my clients. I wanted to work for the good guys and I wanted that ethic to be a core value of my company. I said that if some day it is a model no longer works, I would do something else. It felt good that my conclusion was well-received.

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Reader Comments (2)

I was asked the same question about partisanship by two people at the Politics Online conference, and after 5 minutes of explaining the rationale and how when you have something as controversial and polar as politics it would be difficult to provide the same level of tech support to campaigns opposing your ethics, they both came to their senses and agreed that made perfect sense. I only hope the competition's exhibit manager, who was sitting right across from us, came to the same realization.
March 14, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
One of the most interest aspects of this business is the lack of standard metrics. As an example, we observe that campaigns include more technology in their activities, which would lead us to say that investment in IT is increasing. But search hi and low, there aren't any studies about campaign expenditures for IT--heck...I couldn't find studies that say how any money was spent. In the commercial world, we have studies that provide clear number of dollars spent and projections on future spending.

March 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJames Dement

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