Sunday, September 18, 2005

show-me showdown: advanced aristotle

Here's how it looks to me.

1. Republican Party: A really slick, well-oiled, greedy patronage machine

2. Democratic Party: A totally disheveled, bumbling, greedy patronage machine.

So the question is, what makes the GOP so slick and well-oiled?

When I was looking through Senator Jim's quarterly financial report the other day, I paused for a while on the part where he reported spending $2,750 on software from Aristotle, Inc. My immediate thought was about an article I'd read some time ago in the New Yorker about how campaign managers -- Republican ones in particular -- have become masters at using computer data to pinpoint potential voters. It was fascinating how penetrating these numbers could be. I seem to recall, for instance, that they could determine things like whether or not a particular voter had kids who play soccer, and that this fact would make them more open to, say, a pro-life message. (Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the article archived online.)

This is what I mean by slick and well-oiled. It's like the GOP is a cruelly efficient and profitable private business, driven by no-nonsense economic algorithms, while the Dem Party is a cruelly inefficient and profit-less government agency, driven by whatever it is that drives (or parks) government workers (too many of them, anyway).

I checked out Aristotle Inc's website, half expecting to find hints that it's a right-leaning operation. But they're openly proud of being nonpartisan. They also brag that:
Aristotle customers had a 92% win rate, raised nearly twice as much money as non-customers, and were able to turn out voters 47% more effectively.

So what does this mean if I find mention of Aristotle Inc. in Claire's financial reports?

Mostly, though, I want to know more about this software, see it in action, correlate it to real-life stories. Once I get a few questions in mind, I'll give the Aristotle Inc. folks a call.

At risk of getting no responses, I ask you: Is there anything you want to know about the contemporary, digital political campaign? How computer software fuels (so-called) democracy?

As always, you're welcome to post comments, and I'll get busy hunting down some answers...

No comments: