Column: DNC finally upgrades own Web site, tech capabilities

Well, it's about time. The Democratic National Committee has made a major high-tech move ahead of the Republican Party as it organizes a brand new, interactive Internet site intended to develop and reinforce the committee's advocate and sponsor programs. The Democratic Party, notorious for lagging behind the Republican opponents in only direct mail and voter lists but now in Web site innovations and e-mail, have finally started to be a group that understands web site technology and uses it efficiently.

People who go to the DNC Web site, which should probably be ready sometime this week, will be expected to complete a number of questions to make a summary of their interests on many issues such as concerns for women, Hispanic viewpoints and the right to vote, just to name a few. The DNC will then be ready to send out messages on the issues the visitor indicated as important to them automatically.

Leaders of the DNC will now have the capability to send e-mail in about 50 languages, with just as many different messages. The goal, as always, is to bring new people into the Democratic Party and turn our campaigners into contributors.

The Republicans say they can already do most of these things. When word came out of the new DNC Web site, the Republican National Committee immediately argued the DNC claim of technological advantage. They believe they make good use of Internet transactions already. The battle over who is better technologically engages arguments over the power of different software capability and how-to knowledge of both parties with new advanced database systems. Really, the outcome of their technological competition will make an incredible difference between winning and losing during the elections.

One of the major reasons each party is turning to the Internet is that it seems to be one of the better tools for getting core voters, people whose are loyal and whose eagerness will disappear if the level of communication is not well represented for their parties. For example, the battle for the House and Senate is likely to be decided on a few extremely close races where every single percentage point will count.

Regardless of which party is winning this technology war, the DNC has been in such a downturn recently that pretty much anything it accomplishes is likely to be a considerable development. The DNC is ready to move on in the political world, keeping television as a base for advancement but using its Web site to reach a bigger percentage of the voter population.

When Terry McAuliffe became the chairman of the DNC, QRS Newmedia was brought in to analyze how the party was doing technologically. The analysis was devastating to the party. The report indicated the DNC did not have the capability to communicate effectively. Only one message could go out at a time, and it would go to everyone from an Indianapolis security guard to a Los Angeles school teacher, regardless of their interests.

McAuliffe said the Democrats' insufficiencies were brought to his attention in Florida, around the time of the November 2000 election. He found out that the GOP sent out thousands of e-mails, only in Florida, for their own voter operation. McAuliffe also saw, after the election, when the vote re-count was going on in Florida, they assembled many of their people through e-mail, to get out and help or go to rallies. All of that was done immediately through their e-mail system.

McAuliffe then realized the Democrats could not do that. And so they decided to work on the party's interactive Web site so they could accomplish all of these tasks on the Internet. With hope, everything will work out smoothly and the Democrats can get their message out to a larger number of people.


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