I have lots of thoughts about the Election, and especially the use of technology and social media by the Obama campaign. My brain is fried from two years of tracking every twist and turn in the campaign cycle, so I don’t know how much sense I will be making today.
There is much to celebrate and even more to learn from, on both sides. Certainly, Barack Obama’s campaign is getting all the credit for their work online, but when the dust settles you will see some tremendous innovation (and measurable results) out of the McCain campaign as well.
Personally, I was a little disappointed that the Obama campaign didn’t do more with its big database, its command of social media and new technologies, and its giant war-chest to dig deeper into serious issues and give voters – struggling to find some little bit of serious discussion amid all the mud-slinging – the real facts they needed to make a choice in this election. They basically ran a substance-light, play-it-safe, don’t-make-any-mistakes kind of campaign. Too bad, because the Obama campaign had the potential to achieve so much more. There were so many opportunities to invite supporters to contribute ideas and policy suggestions, not just money and time. There were so many issues where a simulation or calculator would have cleared up all the confusion. They welcomed feedback from their audience, but never seemed to integrate much of it into their operation, suggesting they simply knew better than the wisdom of the crowds. And maybe they did — the Obama campaign knew what was needed to win and they did that. They found some creative and effective ways to use the tools available today, and got a lot of credit for revolutionizing politics (though I say it really hasn’t changed at all).
Then-Senator-now-President-Elect Obama’s campaign barely scratched the surface of what is possible, and what is necessary if we are going to truly repair the damage that has been done to our democracy over the years. I have high hopes for how an Obama administration will use technology, and the internet, to open up the process of running this country and give all of us all a little opportunity to change and improve things ourselves. Governing, far more than politics, is the place to experiment with the uses of social media to increase participation and drive deeper levels of engagement by citizens around issues. Idealistic and possibly even naive, I realize, but anything is possible in today’s age, so its time the next President threw out the old playbook and tried something entirely new.