Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama's Plan to Revolutionize Politics

As we all know, Obama has proven to the world that fully utilizing the internet as a campaign tool can yield incredible, successful results. But how will he continue to engage the American public now that he has taken over as president? A New York Times article called "Melding Obama's Web to a YouTube Presidency" provided a description of how the White House plans to implement its goals using the numerous mechanisms the internet has to offer. 

Obama, a former community organizer, has made it clear from the beginning that turning his campaign's unprecedented usage of immensely popular new media into a functional government tool is one of his most important ambitions for the administration. By involving the public with its government through social networking websites and directly reaching Americans with YouTube videos, Obama hopes to break through the middle-man media and connect with citizens more directly and efficiently. 

However, legal barriers apply; the White House is unable to use the 13-million-person email list compiled during the Obama campaign due to the fact that it was created for political purposes, so instead the huge undertaking of updating American politics to a nation of YouTube and Facebook users has been delegated to the Democratic Party. The group in charge of assembling Obama's upcoming machine of video messages, blogs detailing administration policy, and other political resources is still fundraising and has not fully developed a website but has ambitious plans for implementation. 

While it's certainly important to keep up with the mainstream technology and news-gathering habits of America, it is also necessary to consider those who are being left out of Obama's project. The internet is expansive, but it's also not readily available to all American citizens, particularly those who don't own computers. Older generations who have computers but don't necessarily go online on a regular basis are also not being included in this internet-based political system.

Moreover, communicating information directly from the White House to the public eliminates the media as a moderator. If citizens rely unquestioningly on this discourse alone, they miss out on the press's criticisms and may interpret the administration's characterizations of events and policies as the absolute truth. 

So far, Obama's moves to convert the country to a pop media-based age of information have been incredibly effective (after all, he got elected). I was interested to see if this issue might be somewhat gendered, so I found another article printed by the New York Times almost a year ago regarding Hillary Clinton's contrasting political strategies. Entitled "The Audacity of Hopelessness," this article chastises her tendency to "[keep] to the Bush playbook," playing it old school throughout her campaign and failing to engage the public the way Obama did. The article reads:
Clinton fans don't see their standard-bearer's troubles this way. In their view, their highly substantive candidate was unfairly undone by a lightweight showboat who got a free ride from an often misogynist press and from naive young people who lap up messianic language as if it were Jim Jones's Kool Aid.
Once again, the media blames Hillary Clinton for playing the gender card. While Clinton certainly didn't employ innovative campaign tactics like her rival Obama, it seems unfair to blame her failure on whining about sexism. In this way, it seems that candidates' strategies for promoting themselves is at least somewhat tied up in gender. 

President Obama's plan to change popular politics and engage citizens to influence policy and increase their civic participation is certainly ambitious, but judging from the way he revolutionized the 2008 election, the administration's goals seems entirely possible. One just has to wonder if such formidable goals could have been accomplished by a woman with her own political strategy. 


Musiclover14 said...

Personally I'm all for Obama's "technology-friendly" plan, then again I do use the computer on a daily basis. In my opinion, though, any new ways to distribute political news are effective and beneficial. It's frightening how many people, especially those of the young age demographic, know very little about political goings-on. I found this website ( which gives statistics of different surveys regarding political knowledge.
This website suggests that among high school students and younger students, about half have a "low knowledge level" regarding politics and among college students, about one third have a "low knowledge level." This site also shows in a survey that out of the people from ages 18-29, only 15% have a high knowledge level when it comes to politics. On the other hand, out of the people surveyed who are 50 and over, about 45% have a high knowledge level. So clearly the younger age demographic needs some help, which is perfect seeing as they are the most prominent internet users. Obama, go right ahead and make a facebook, a myspace, and connect with us through youtube because hey, it can't hurt!

youre likable enough said...

I really like how Obama is trying to be as inclusive as possible. From FDR's influential fireside chat broadcasts to the historic Nixon-Kennedy televised debates, I believe that Obama's usage of the internet to reach out to Americans is also another great idea.

During Bush's terms in office, average Americans rarely felt the presence of Bush's presidency. Yet within the past few days of Obama's inauguration, Obama has given weekly video addressed on youtube, revamped the website, and even allowed Americans to apply for jobs in the Obama administration via the website.

I also agree with Musiclover14's reasons for supporting Obama's internet blitz. Now not only can Obama inform Americans of the Obama administration's actions, but Obama can also inspire the millions of American youth who once had no interest in politics.

Shawna said...

I'm excited about the changing government uses of technology and I see it significantly impacting the "apathetic younger voters" (put in quotations because our age group played a very important role in the late election).

Our generation is known for many characteristics, among them our 24/7 connection to the internet using a variety of tools (ipods, cell phones, laptops, etc.) and our, to be blunt, laziness. We want to be rich fast, we want our information at the tips of our fingers, and we want to put as little effort into everything as humanly possible while still reaping the high rewards.

As a result, combining the celerity of the internet and other technologies with political information will most likely yield a more knowledgeable public which will be more interested not only in national affairs, but those abroad as well. The United States has always been seen as being quite egocentric; this trend might be about to change.

I do agree, however, that it is important to keep the media and political analysts in a middle man position (even if that position becomes significantly smaller).