One way or another, this Democratic primary will be done very soon, and barring an unthinkable tragedy or scandal, Hillary Clinton will be making a decision about how to end her campaign for president.
She’ll give a speech where she’ll reflect on the victories she won and the barriers she broke. She’ll thank her campaign staff, her activists, and her donors. She’ll try to pay her debts, conduct an audit for the FEC, and then return to the Senate to think about what might have been and what might one day still be.
And that’s it, right?
No matter what the office, every campaign is about building a network of support. The end result might be a collections of names written on index cards and bound with a rubber band or it might be data for a million supporters in a voter vault.
But for the presidential campaigns, it also includes the sometimes small but actively engaged networks they’ve built on sites across the Web.
Hillary Clinton has 198,664 friends on MySpace, 155,486 supporters on Facebook, 13,851 subscribers on YouTube, and 3,793 followers on Twitter.
Each of them represents a person who made a conscious decision to connect with Clinton and her campaign. They deserve the dignity of an appropriate goodbye and thank you.
Unless, that is, Clinton has an idea about what she wants to do next.
She began her bid for the presidency with a YouTube video where she called for a national conversation about the challenges facing the country. That doesn’t have to end just because her campaign does. Particularly online.
The Web offers Clinton (and every other politician) the opportunity to connect with people directly, without the filters of the mainstream news or the impersonality of a campaign rally. That’s a valuable resource no matter what Clinton’s future holds. She would be smart to continue developing it.
But if she does choose to close up shop, she should take a careful look at what John Edwards did and learn a lesson.
As he ran for president, Edwards carefully built a presence on more than twenty social networking and media sites. He updated them regularly right up until the day he suspended his campaign. And then all of a sudden, there was nothing. His last update on Twitter still reads:
On my way to Finley hospital in Dubuque, Iowa to talk with nurses and local SEIU members. Then I’m off to a community meeting in Montice
That’s a big mistake and one that’s undone some of the good will he’d managed to build online.
A loss is always hard, but a politician who wants to campaign online can’t just walk away when the race is done.