The moment Donald Trump declared his candidacy, followed by an onslaught of Tweets, we knew this campaign was going to be different. And was it ever. Two of the most famous people in the world competing for the same job. From the Clinton email debacle and Trump’s Twitter, to the powerful voter tracking and GOTV operations, to Nate Silver’s algorithm-driven Twitter fit … This has been the most articulated, captured, analyzed, scrutinized, digitized election in history. And the process will never be the same. Technology is fundamentally changing how campaigns are run and managed. Here are the tech stories that dominated:
1. Twitter. Never has a social media or a single platform had so much of an impact on polling and the national dialogue.
Twitter became a huge force because Trump used it brilliantly to connect with voters in the primary, before reverting to bully pulpit, eventually getting so bad he had “his Twitter removed by his campaign staff,” POTUS joked yesterday.
But in the middle was a PhD on using Twitter to build a candidacy and an army of supporters. Without serious recruitment efforts or ground game, it is truly remarkable the rabid support he’s developed online, attracting an unintentional army of Twitter users previously relegated to the fringe, who found each other and Trump. All over social media.
Tech meant weird consumption patterns: the GOP nominee sitting on the campaign plane, getting input from his surrogates through their TV appearances. This was Trump’s communication style by the end of the campaign, according to the NYT.
How he bypassed all intermediaries to speak directly to voters stunned and galvanized his primary, leaving opponents in the dust. His use of Twitter, the army of deplorables lined up behind him on Twitter, were a defining part of this campaign, demonstrating how disinformation and manipulation can be deployed en masse by automated or foreign actors, fundamentally changing the dialogue and the dynamics.
2. Emails. Surely nothing more needs to be said about Clinton’s ill-advised decision to run a personal email server. Why how, the emails themselves, have all been reviewed and discussed to death. But they, and their sudden reappearance, were a huge factor in perception of her candidacy, and her lack of knowledge about the tech certainly exacerbated a non-issue.
3. GOP apparently unaware that computers are really fast, capable of reviewing hundreds of thousands of emails in a few days. This is not even that new. Why are so many senior politicians so technically illiterate, and what does it say about America’s ambitions to become a digital state? A lot.
4. GOTV vote tech finally catching up thanks to Jared Kushner, but not enough. Dems had 45 million interactions with prospective voters, GOP 17 million.
5. Geeks, not wonks, rule the campaign trail today.
6. The digital propaganda machine: much more visible, unpleasant and often enraging, but sadly effective at misinformation dissemination.
In the end it was a clash between a truly populist campaign and an impeccably run, perfectly managed, beautifully coordinated campaign of technology infrastructure and ideas. The better prepared candidate will probably win. We’d like to see Hillary get a little more adept with tech, but other than that, we are with her!