NEW YORK--When it comes to a strategy for galvanizing young voters in the hours before the "Super Tuesday" primaries, a coalition of big-media outlets chose to throw an online and offline dialogue with candidates. A group of tech-friendly 20-somethings in New York decided the best way to organize young supporters of Democratic candidate Barack Obama would be to invite them to a massive dance party.
Over the past week, invitations created through Facebook and Evite flew around the inboxes of many plugged-in young New Yorkers: an appropriate donation to Obama for America would give them access to an open bar, dance-worthy DJ music, and plenty of other young Obama fans who were willing to spend Saturday night at a fundraiser rather than a Lower East Side hotspot. The informal Web invites appear to have been a success, as several hundred people showed up--and most of the attendees, who were overwhelmingly under the age of 30 (and almost exclusively under 35) were indeed dressed up for a Saturday night out. Campaign T-shirts were almost nowhere to be found, except on one young woman sporting a shirt that said "I've Got A Crush On Obama" with plenty of pink hearts.
But the event wasn't just a bunch of kids; the "Big Obama Party" had close ties to the local technology and digital-media communities. The organizers had no formal affiliation, but several count progressive Web policy initiatives like Free Culture and Creative Commons, as well as New York University's art-meets-tech Interactive Telecommunications Program among the points on their resumes.
And the venue was Web video studio For Your Imagination, which has become a local favorite among the dotcom set due to the company's courageous willingness to host late-night parties in its office space.
The crowd wasn't quite as "dotcommy" as an event for, say, geek candidate-of-choice Ron Paul might be. It was, however, a clearly creative and tech-savvy set. There were more than a few bloggers in the house, including at least one from TechCrunch's payroll. Others were into the more experimental, Improv Everywhere-esque side of culture: one young choreographer told me that he was working on a "Boogie for Obama" in which dancers in Obama T-shirts would get their freak on in the New York subways on the day before Super Tuesday.
Throwing a Saturday night dance party for young voters as a political fundraiser, especially in a city where there are gossip-hungry bloggers on every corner (ahem), always runs the risk of turning into bad press. But there was only one moment when the event nearly erupted into scandal--when somebody decided to take Obama's "fired up and ready to go" slogan a little too literally and, well, fired up a joint. Regardless of what you think about marijuana legalization, it's still illegal in the state of New York and caused some concern among For Your Imagination representatives, whose landlords are undoubtedly being very generous by permitting them to hold open-bar parties. The offending joint was extinguished, but the dance floor energy wasn't.
Yes, that's right: people actually danced. Whether they'll actually vote--we'll see on Tuesday.