He texted. He Twittered. YouTube visitors played his official campaign videos for almost 15 million hours. But what impact will social media have on his governing?
We now know that a first-term U.S. Senator overcame two of the most successful political machines in recent history — the Clinton network and the Republican 72-hour get-out-the-vote operation — with his expertise as a community organizer.
In some ways he was wet behind those trademark ears in the matter of presidential campaigns — at one point asking advisers if he could plan to spend weekends at home with his young daughters. But as an organizer, he knew what he was doing.
The numbers are astonishing. In battleground states, uncountable, unplanned-for busloads of volunteers showed up to knock on doors for weeks before polls opened. On election day alone: one million doors in Ohio, almost two million in Pennsylvania, where there were 500 staging locations for canvassers. In one Virginia county of 72,000 voters, two thousand volunteers poured in, many from neighboring states. Enough volunteers to push every wheelchair, call every number, knock on every single door.
He did it with shoe leather, with face time, with tight neighborhood team leadership, organizations built to last — just as in his own first years in Chicago.
But he brought the shoe leather together using new media. Howard Dean may have pioneered the Internet campaign, but Obama was the first to win the presidency with it. Above all, it was the fund raising — the army of small donors that gave up their email addresses and cell phone numbers to volunteers, and especially the self-selecting 3.2 million people who Googled his name, visited the campaign Web site, and typed in their credit-card numbers. Donors under $200 accounted for almost half his record-shattering $650-million war chest.
Information Week claims that Obama has captured the title of the first Internet president, perhaps “ending the era of the television presidency that began with JFK.” He dominated social media — accounting for 70 percent of the 1.7 million users of the nonpartisan Facebook get-out-the-vote utility. His 3.4 million Facebook and MySpace friends quadrupled McCain’s tally.
YouTube visitors played his official campaign videos for almost 15 million hours — not counting many millions of hours spent on the “Obama Girl” series, the Brave New Films clips exposing McCain, and hundreds of other contributors of Obama-themed content.
He texted. He Twittered. He had custom social media designed to connect supporters to his message, to donate spare cash and spare time, to meet up.
The pundits are already asking, “Will he govern this way?” Perhaps. We’ll see.
For me the real question is whether we will govern this way.
He will disappoint, as I’ve already pointed out.
Obama doesn’t have a health-care plan worthy of the name. He likes charter schools and high-stakes testing. Sooner or later we’ll figure out that going back to the Clinton economy is hardly the answer (see _Nickel and Dimed_).
And who reading this doesn’t know how “affordability” in college education and health care is achieved under Clinton-style quality management? Oh yeah, and he thinks marriage is between a man and a woman — a conviction leading to a little ballot measure that folks in my neck of the woods call Prop Hate.
He may or may not be ready to face the opportunity that war, crisis, and a fed-up electorate have given him, to junk the campaign’s billion-dollar struggle for a few million votes at the center and go all in. “Okay, you present me with a bill for several trillion? I’ll raise you another two trillion to make it the new New Deal, with real jobs in higher education, health care, energy, and infrastructure.”
What he risks is trying to turn the clock back and get some quick good metrics by stealing from the Clinton austerity playbook.
To give President Obama the chance to become another FDR, we’ll have to take a lesson from candidate Obama — and organize him into being.
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