Searching for Online Organizing’s Tipping Point

I caught this quote from David Axelrod in this morning’s Trib:

Our greatest imperative is to mobilize large numbers of Americans to work together in this campaign and I’m encouraged by the early returns,” Axelrod said. “You’re seeing people mobilizing and getting involved and that’s ultimately as important as the money itself.”

That’s a great acknowledgement, but it gets at a question I’ve been pondering for a while now – where is the tipping point that makes organizing dramatically more important than money? And with all the talk of money’s poisonous effect on politics, what innovations will hasten that day’s arrival?

I’m taking for granted that politics would be better if politicians relied less on rich people and monied interests for a constant flow of campaign cash. We’ve been implicitly promised that technology will increase the political power of individual citizens and groups of citizens, while reducing the corrosive impact of money.

Of course, we’re not there yet, and in the past few years, we haven’t seen innovations that are going to help get us there. Does social media make a difference? Sure. But commercial social networks like Facebook and Twitter are not enough, and are certainly not designed to mobilize mass numbers of supporters to achieve political/campaign goals.

Current campaigns and technologies have explored maybe 5% of what’s possible in the near and intermediate future. The question now isn’t if innovation will happen – that’s inevitable. It’s who will take the problem of online organizing seriously enough to get there first and revolutionize political action.

Publicly and privately, a lot of insiders I talk to wonder if  any 2012 presidential campaigns will be innovative enough to take online organizing to the next level. My response is that we can’t predict it because innovation is brought about by the people who imagine the future, advocate for it, and execute on it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

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