Smithsonian Political Machines Symposium

The Smithsonian National Museum of National History sponsored a symposium — Political Machines:  Innovations in Campaigns and Elections today.

This morning started with a keynote talk by Darrell West of the Brookings Institution.  He gave an interesting talk on how politics is being changed by technology.  He noted how campaigns and political groups are using consumer and political data are being combined to allow for micro-targeting and nano-targeting of political messages.  There was a fascinating question asked to Professor West, which was that, in the future, campaigns and groups may know your cell number and perhaps can know your GPS location so that, as you approach the poll or even when you are right inside the room, campaigns will be sending you texts and emails encouraging you to vote for or against a specific candidate or issue.

The second panel focused on campaigns.  Jon Grinspan, a doctoral candidate in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, talked about the craziness of campaigns in the 1800s.  He noted that, back then, the undecided voter was derided; people were members of political teams and the teams competed to win, having large rallies, marches, and intimidating voters at the polls by challenging people thought to be of the other party.  Zephyr Teachout talked about the 21st century election work, noting how the internet works in politics and how its use also is threatening to the traditional campaign, because it allows voters who support a candidate to act independently, without guidance from the campaign.

I am speaking this afternoon and will post more later.