Comparing 2008 to 2016

It normally rings true: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Or – the more things change, the more they stay the same.  But the world change in the past 8 years is huge. First, about the blog, then on to the campaign.

If you’re a long-term reader, you know that Matt started DCW in 2005, Oreo joined in 2007, I in 2008. Since then, we’ve had writers and commenters come and go. Currently, our SCOTUS and legal work is accomplished by TMess.

Back in 2008, we were the go-to source for all things Super Delegate related, and had some interesting scoops on the Denver convention. Matt, Tom and I worked what seemed like 10 hours a day, in addition to our day jobs, our families, and the campaigns on which we worked. I’m not convinced any of the three of us slept a full 4 hours out of any given 24. 

We were proud bloggers at a time when blogging truly mattered. There was barely Facebook, and when we tweeted, it was a vast wilderness out there. That year, the DNC made a special provision for the first time to grant media credentials to bloggers. This continued in 2012, but doesn’t seem to be the case this year — it’s solely media creds.

Blogs were where it was at! There was information from local bloggers who really knew everything about their areas. Nate Silver was still going by Poblano and no one knew who he really was. Data sources were many, and good bloggers made sure to check and double check that we had the story right.

By now though, most of the blogs have been absorbed into larger ones – and the number of news sources has greatly decreased. This is a very sad thing for those of us still out there – but mostly for readers who only have access to the various echo chambers on all sides. Sadly for us, most people who read our blog come via Facebook (so please, if you’re reading this, like us on Facebook here and tell your friends!)

And those data sources? Most are now behind paywalls – making it ever harder for bloggers (who operate as labours of love and not profit) to be able to access everything from local sources.

Another sad thing is that people don’t read anymore – 1,000 words and you’ve lost most of the audience. More nuanced things, however, require more words, more insight. So here goes on what the difference between the campaigns is this year, I’ll keep it as short as possible.

First, the similarities: Hillary Clinton started out well ahead, and quickly most people were knocked off the trail leaving just one viable contender. Both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders are not your typical presidential candidates.  And there similarities mostly end. It’s still a contest.

In 2008, the Obama campaign was the first to truly understand and exploit the caucus system. For example, while Clinton won the majority of the Nevada votes, he won the delegates – and while we at DCW knew what that meant, most people didn’t. Now, it’s all about the count. And as we told you then – supers don’t have to actually commit the final time until they’re on the floor of the convention. The Obama campaign was also data driven in a way that no one had ever been before. They were strictly on message at all times (okay 99% of the time) and numbers were crunched daily to a level of detail everyone else has been trying to replicate ever since.  Now, everyone does data – some better than others. Also following in the footsteps of OFA, everyone leverages social media to the hilt.

A major change is that the landscape of the electorate has changed in ways big and small. The largest change is that political non-combatants are completely fed up with the inaction on the part of Washington, and the fact that their wants and needs are completely ignored. This is due partly to the growth of the Teabag party and the Occupy movement which galvanized thought (more so than action). But now, if you go to speeches, especially Trump speeches on the right and Sanders speeches on the left, you’ll see people (who will talk to you) who have never been involved with an election, never cared, never gave it much thought who are now passionate about doing whatever they can to affect change. They’re non-political enough to miss the importance of any election other than the presidential one, but they’re engaged in ways they never were before.

Polls aren’t what they used to be. Part of this is decrease in the number of landlines in homes, and the reticence on the part of most cell phone users to answering calls from any unknown incoming number. Another factor is the fact that many polls are now online and it doesn’t take a genius to switch IP addresses and “vote” multiple times, thus driving up the numbers of candidates with passionate constituencies.

And the MSM? They’ve changed probably most of all. It used to be that journalists held to a code of ethics, and many still do. Individuals may have favourites but they used to treat the subject matter of elections fairly.  It’s easy to watch “news” shows and know clearly who is in the tank for which candidate. Thus, information is not always forthcoming – and when it is, often it is coloured by who the journalists want to bump up or down.

The biggest change in this election is the effects, so far, of money in politics. When you read the FEC data on who took in what from whom, and spent on what, you notice that PAC money isn’t what it was in 2012, that is, it hasn’t had the outsized effect it did four years ago. The ads? Many are internet-only and thus a lot of voters, especially older ones, don’t necessarily see them. And (incredibly sadly) ads are how people used to get a lot of their candidate information if they didn’t go to speeches and rallies, or read newspapers and blogs. Now it’s all echo chamber. This will change as the field of primaries grows and candidates need to promote their candidacies in multiple locations, but we’ll see.

So I’ve hit my 1,000 words — I’ll leave you with this, which I’ve said a thousand times if I’ve said it once: get involved. VOTE. Bring your friends. Support your candidates in every way you can. Don’t care for the candidates? Work the polls for your city/county. BE INVOLVED – it’s the way democracy works.


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