Daniel Kreiss’s Taking our country back: the crafting of networked politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama looks at how Democrats first learned how to build digitally savvy election campaigns from scratch and then – crucially – learned how to institutionalise the technology and data so that future campaigns (hello Barack Obama) did not have to start from scratch in the way all their predecessors had to.
Although technology in politics is often described as if perfect solutions are invented or lifted off the shelf by campaigns, Kreiss highlights how much there is to learn from and build on previous campaigns – if, crucially, you have a political organising structure which permits this. Prior to Howard Dean for the Democrats, and until later for the Republicans, pretty much each would-be Presidential campaign built up its own digital and data expertise but then didn’t leave better datasets and better software behind for the next round of candidates.
That story of Democrats and technology in the first decade of this century has been told several times already by excellent books, including in The Victory Lab and Hacking the Electorate. Kreiss’s book has neither the colourful personal stories of the former nor the path breaking data analysis of the latter. Rather, his is more like the comprehensive textbook of the trio.
Readable, comprehensive and full of footnotes to give interested readers jumping off points to learn more.
If you like this, you might also be interested in Hacking the Electorate which takes an evidence-based look at what campaigns really do with data.