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First POST: Downplaying

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, November 6 2014

Downplaying

  • According to this report from Pew Research, the national vote share for Republicans versus Democrats in 2014 was pretty similar to 2010, with the same demographic divides. This despite hiring many of the Obama 2012 campaign's best digital strategists and spending $60 million to help maximize the turnout of the Obama base.

  • So what about the role of tech in election 2014? Darren Samuelson of Politico got a bunch of interesting answers. Among them: says Stu Trevelyan of NGP VAN, "It was not enough, and never will be, except in close races."

  • Also downplaying the importance of tech and data to the Democrats' midterm losses, Amelia Showalter, former digital analytics director for Obama 2012: "All of these are tools that help at the margins."

  • And Scott Goodstein of Revolution Messaging adds, "Are Republicans catching up to the Democrats in technology? Yes. Did they make great strides? Yes. Can you say technology won or lost on either side? No. And I think either side taking credit and pointing here or there to say technology is winning or losing would be silly. When you lose by 10 point margins in so may races, something is fundamentally wrong and you need to do some deeper soul searching than a technology firm saying we could have made up this or that.”

  • Among the causes cited for the Democrats' big losses: the White House's abysmal handling of Healthcare.gov. "No member of the Democratic caucus screwed up the rollout of that healthcare web site, yet they paid the price -- every one of them," David Krone, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's chief of staff, told The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa. Their exhaustive piece reconstructing the campaign also notes that "the president shared with the Senate campaigns his massive lists of volunteer data and supporters' email addresses, considered by his advisers to be sacred documents."

  • So what? Matt Bai asks where the vaunted Obama turnout machine went, and says that it was always more transient and overblown a phenomenon than the White House let on.

  • Netroots curmudgeon Matt Stoller argues in Medium that the primary reason for the Democrats' losses isn't being discussed in these post-mortems: "Did the Democrats run the government well? Are the lives of voters better? Are you as a political party credible when you say you’ll do something?"

  • Sifting the election results, Re/Code's Amy Schatz offers a useful list of tech winners and losers. Among the losers, she notes the defeat of Ro Khanna, a favorite to the Silicon Valley set, to incumbent Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)--though Khanna hasn't formally conceded yet; the defeat of Colorado Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), a key voice on NSA reform; and the losses of nearly all the candidates backed by Lawrence Lessig's MayDayPAC. The main winner she highlights is "Comcast's least favorite lawmaker," Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, who won re-election handily.

  • In the Guardian, Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation calls on Sen. Udall to leak the suppressed CIA torture report as his parting move as a lame-duck senator.

  • A new browser extension called ShadowCrypt purports to bring encrypted messaging to any email, Tweet or status update, reports Tom Simonite for Technology Review.

  • Yummy: Stephen Lurie reports for Matter on the 36 people who run Wikipedia, or "What the weirdest, wildest, most successful participatory project in history tells us about working together."

  • David Moore of the Participatory Politics Foundation lays out a compelling vision of "what's needed for civic engagement" focusing on better tools for two-way voter<-->government communication.

  • Dealing with the news of the death of an old mentor, tech writer Paul Ford takes a trip back in time to relive all his old computer memories, and from that somehow reconnect with his lost friend. If you are someone who maybe started using computers with an old Macintosh or a Commodore Amiga, his essay in Medium may strike a chord.

  • Civic Design Camp is happening this weekend in New York City, hosted by Dave Seliger of Civic Service and Ariel Kennan of Designing Government.