Do you blog? Surf blogs? Own a laptop? An iPhone? A blackberry? Do you digg? Are you on FaceBook? Or MySpace? Do you YouTube? If you’re here paying attention to politics, chances are good that you answered “yes” to more than one of these questions. A recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that, “A record-breaking 46% of Americans have used the internet, email or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others.” This is the age of the ‘Net, in everyday life and in politics, and the candidate who best understands and embraces that will do well.
From the start, Obama has been more serious about technology than any of the other candidates, issuing a statement on tech as part of his platform. In this statement, he covers such key issues as net neutrality, open wireless spectrum, privacy, and tech access in schools. He also pledges to name the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer and to make government completely transparent. This commitment has made an impression on the Silicon Valley crowd, earning him the endorsements of folks like TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington (who also endorsed Republican John McCain, to be fair) and Chris Hughes of FaceBook (who is also an Obama online organizer).
How is this translating into action in the campaign? On Facebook, for example, Obama has 988,591 supporters; John McCain has 145, 301. On MySpace, Obama has 396,449 friends. I would like to tell you how many friends John McCain has, but I had to add him as a friend before I could see and as of publish time, I was still waiting on the confirmation email for my add. Making it too hard to be a friend won’t garner you too many, I should think. One point for technology friendliness to the Obama team.
One last point here: much has been made in the media of the Obama campaign’s ability to draw younger people in this election. Technology absolutely has something to do with that. The campaign text messages cell phones to remind people to vote and give them their polling location. I know because I’ve received them. The campaign regularly emails supporters, not only asking for donations, but encouraging them to volunteer and sharing words of support and inspiration. The campaign offers an online phonebanking tool so that supporters in California can log in and make phone calls to voters in West Virginia. The Obama campaign has taken its community organizing foundation and gone high tech, applying the same principals on a grand scale. Both Chris Hughes and Joe Rospars, Obama’s Director of New Media, get huge credit for this.
Envision this model of networking emanating not from a campaign HQ, but from the White House. When Obama pledges a different kind of politics and a different kind of administration, he’s serious. He doesn’t look at technology as a big brother device, but rather as a way of creating an open community through which we can have the sorts of conversations and networks that might help us reach some of our goals and alleviate some of our problems. If you’re reading this, you understand those networks. And if you understand, then Obama’s your guy.