Labour candidate in the Tallaght ward for the South Dublin County Council election Dermot Looney has issued a brave boast. He claims that his online campaign is the “biggest and best” out of several thousand local election candidates in Ireland.
Them’s fighting words, fella. Methinks the Greens, who seem to be on a mission to take over the whole Internet, may have a thing or two to say about that.
To give Looney credit, he has been running his blog for years, with – he says – great success. Not only that, but he has deftly cut the slaggers off at the pass by calling it the The Looney Left, which is a gesture of self-deprecation rarely seen among politicians.
As anyone with even a passing interest in elections is aware, Irish political parties have embraced the Internet this year in a way never before seen, undoubtedly inspired by the success of the Obama campaign’s online mobilisation prior to last year’s US presidential elections, which changed politics forever.
From MEPs with big budgets to lowly aspirant town council members, Irish candidates, like Obama’s team, are using every tool at their disposal, from websites to blogs to Facebook to Youtube to Twitter, in a bid to reach as many potential voters as possible. And, lest we forget, fundraise.
However, Ireland and the US are very different animals. The sheer scale of the US, which has a population nearly 75 times the size of ours and 140 times the land mass, means it is simply unfeasible for a US presidential candidate to knock on every door or even speak in every city. The internet was therefore quite simply the only possible way to reach everyone.
While the same could be said for the large European election constituencies, most Irish politicians do not have the excuse of being unable to cover all the ground, particularly in the local elections, where candidates are vying to represent relatively small electorates. It could be argued that no matter how visible their online presence, there is still no substitute for politicians wearing out shoe leather and pressing the flesh.
Or is there? What do you think? Is Politics 2.0 worthwhile, a waste of time or a bit of both?