Just when you think the RNC might go by the wayside like the 8-track player, they seem to resurrect themselves from the graveyard. “On Thursday they launched an innovative online tool that enables supporters to raise tiny amounts of money for the committee with each internet search query that they send through Yahoo’s search engine,” according to Wired.

Additionally, this new toolbar will “incorporate an RSS feed as well as scrolling news, breaking alerts and two-way communication with supporters,” according to John Weaver, McCain’s former chief strategist. And if that is not enough for you, the new tool bar will be able to track your donations in real time, and you will be able to watch as your donations grow.

It seems like the GOP will be able to gather a tremendous amount of data about a supporter from this tool bar.

In the past, the important data politicians gathered was where and how we live. Yet, now, it might be more important to know what we search for on the internet. This is a brilliant plan: Get fundraising dollars and learn about your supporters search habits.

However, there is a real danger here. The danger is losing the empowerment that the internet has given to normal citizens. This empowerment has renewed political participation and enthusiasm.

All of this might be lost if politicians use the internet to treat people like pocketbooks and statistics. Joe Trippi reminds us there was a backlash “against fifty years of broadcast politics, which treated people as if they were nothing more than fund-raising targets and points on a poll” (p. 104).

It is amazing that this toolbar can generate campaign dollars without a supporter entering their credit card number. However, the GOP should be cautious about how it will use this avenue in fund-raising and micro-targeting. Trippi argues that the measure of great companies and politicians will be the way they build great communities (p. 219).

In conclusion, the GOP has found a new way to leverage technology to raise funds and collect data. However, they should continually ask: Are we building a community where our supporters feel heard and valued?

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