An observation about the Clinton and Obama campaigns, they way they are organizing their base supporters, and what it means for the identity and inclusiveness of their campaigns.
On Thursday I received my first email from Clinton's Youth Director - Emily Hawkins. The email asked that I send an eCard to my friends and family on Women's Equality day in honor of the struggle of the Suffragettes. It was a good email, and a good tactic to grow their list. I remember reading in a number of places in 2004 that appeals to historical struggles like the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Suffrage are powerful motivators when engaging people in politics - particularly younger people.
This email, however, didn't come from Youth for Hillary or Teens for Clinton or any other such group. It came from Women for Hillary, which has been the primary constituency group associated with the campaign for months now. Nothing against Women for Hillary. They certainly deserve their own group and a prominent place in the campaign. As Hillary's strongest base, it makes sense to try and maximize their participation - particularly considering the prominent role that young single women played in 2006 (pdf) and are expected to play in 2008.
But, between grumblings I heard months ago that the Clinton campaign was ignoring the efforts of its young grassroots supporters, and its continued lack of an organized campaign to engage ALL young voters, I must confess that as a constituent (I live in NY) and potential supporter, I'm feeling incredibly left out and let down by the Clinton campaign. The continuation of this extremely narrow appeal feels very mid 90s and interest-groupish - all the things I dislike about politics before 2003. Where is there space for someone like me in the Clinton campaign?
All this stands in stark contrast to the word coming out of the Obama Campaign this weekend. While I was stewing over that email, I also started to receive Google News alerts about Generation Obama - a new program launched by the Obama campaign to expand their successful youth organizing beyond students to encompass all young people. The launch received little media attention except for a positive piece in a Wired blog (a Google News search yields just 15 articles), but it's an important step for the campaign.
Polls have shown that Hillary's youth support (if it is in fact more substantial than low-information young voters going with who they know) stems primarily among non-college youth. The launch of GO puts Obama into competition for the hearts and minds (and votes) of that consituency, which, as Matt Singer notes, has very different concerns than most college or post graduate students, and is in fact much larger in size. More germane to this post, it opens a space in Obama's campaign for all supporters to organize - not just one constituency. It's also incredibly responsive to the concerns of its own "youthroots."
So it seems that Obama is running an inclusive campaign, meant to appeal to a wide swath of the American public (particularly among youth), while Clinton is running a much more targeted campaign that intentionally excludes roughly half of the populace in their organizing strategy and messaging. That might be a somewhat unfair characterization (and to be clear, I'm not at all implying any sort of discrimination on the part of the Clinton campaign) but there is some truth in this and it leaves me wondering.
Should Clinton win the nomination (the most likely scenario), what will this strategy mean for all the grassroots engagement we're seeing from the Obama campaign - particularly among young voters? How do you transfer that energy and engagement from one campaign to the other when the winning campaign doesn't even acknowledge the varied support that comes from the Millennial generation?