Inside The Disruptive Collision Of Tech, Politics And Race
One of the most powerful paradigm shifts taking place in our country right now is that of energized and emboldened new levels of civic participation as they directly intersect with youth culture, diverse voices and technology.
Call it the next level of the disruptive “leaderful” era, an era in which everyone begins to not only recognize but also leverage one’s own personal power and mindset to encourage rapid, dynamic social change. This bottom-up approach is increasingly challenging traditional forms of authority, social norms and hierarchy to try to push through to a new social model. Such actions are buoyed in large part, by the ability to directly connect, influence and exchange with others via tech platforms. But as traditional American politics collides with the rise of everything from surprising new formations of organizations challenging its judgment to unexpected repercussions from actions by prominent individuals and companies, how will the gatekeepers navigate this new cultural trend?
The build-up of activities is fascinating to track. Everything from major Hollywood agencies such as William-Morris Endeavor (WME) actually creating a political action committee (PAC) inside of the company, to tech moguls such as Reid Hoffman and Marc Pincus launching a new organization to literally “re-think the Democratic party,” to athletes of color kneeling during the National Anthem in order to bring attention to racial inequalities in America (much to the very vocal dismay of the White House), to the increasing volume of the Millennial voice questioning nearly everything, the latest of which is the validity of capitalism during a sold-out event just a few days ago, is unprecedented in our country.
These are but a few examples of many, many more which are demonstrative of a powerful social shift.
Various new collectives are rapidly jumping into the ring to make sure their voices are not only heard but effectively used as agents of change in America today, pushing for new conversations and at times, even attempting to override that of traditional areas of authority. Thus, prominent notables from both the tech and political worlds recently gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways in which this cultural pattern impacts traditional political messaging and outreach and considerations for ways in which to navigate a new balance of influence in America.
Entitled “Beats, Ballots & Bytes,” the panel discussion was held at Microsoft’s K Street offices and included Caroline Goggin, Head of Communications for Tech For Campaigns and Founder, Upcause PR; Alex Conant, Former Communications Director, Senator Marco Rubio, Presidential Election Campaign and Current Founder, Firehouse Strategies; Caleb Gardner, Former Digital Director, OFA/Barack Obama and Current Founder, 18 Coffees; and Chuck Rocha, Director, National Association of Diverse Political Consultants and President, Solidarity Strategies. The panel was produced by Lnk Agency and co-moderated by Angela Greiling Keane, Deputy Technology Editor, POLITICO.
These prominent notables discussed the disruption from a unique, insider perspective.
“The 2016 presidential election galvanized a lot of Americans,” said Goggin. “People now want to volunteer for campaigns in more impactful ways so we’re taking advantage of that at Tech For Campaigns and pairing tech infrastructure with talented people, and that will allow us to scale like wildfire in 2018.”
Gardner added, “Technology will keep increasing the trend toward openness and authenticity, and politicians need to simply find a way to balance that while managing expectations with their constituents.”
He continued, “As trust in our political system overall wanes, trust in individual actors is going to become even more important. People trust other people more than they trust institutions.”
Indeed, it seems that such direct, no-holds-barred communication was part of the impetus behind the presidential election results just this time last year.
Said Conant, “Trump had an advantage in the debates because the other candidates were just trying to chase him on a daily basis, and he never had to spend money. He used earned media online. It overwhelmed what other candidates were able to spend. No other candidates could stop him.” Thus, going forward, Conant revealed that GOP candidates are now encouraged to spend 50 percent of their budget in the digital arena in order to meet the demands and pace of a new era in politics. Conant also noted that there is bipartisan consensus to prohibit foreign interference, such as that from Russia, going forward, particularly across digital platforms.
To add to the complexities of a fast-paced digital era, the browning of our country and an increasing narrative around race made for further considerations that were also top of mind on the panel.
Rocha explained, “The way Americans consume information is changing rapidly, and it’s up to us to stay up to date to keep our community engaged and educated. But keep in mind, people of color over-index in most communications when talking about digital and social media so we have a responsibility to deliver a culturally competent content.”
Rocha also noted that duplicity will continue to be an issue in terms of creating such content and demographics of color and that such concerns are not new.
As a seasoned political consultant, Rocha noted that the Facebook fake news of the ’80s actually came in the format of customized newspapers created by political teams who would then throw into people’s driveways as a communications tool.
“That’s always happened when various groups don’t want certain people to vote. So peer-to-peer communications with valid messengers is vital,” said Rocha.
Posted with permission of Forbes Media LLC.
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