Buzz Aldrin on the Moon by Robert Goodwin from Wired.com
Tonight the last class of Digital Campaigns will cover upcoming technologies and trends. For sure, technology will take politics on avenues that we cannot imagine. I am quite sure that guys we have followed in this semester (e.g. Cyros Krohn from RNC (interesting article in WashPost the other day), Netroots Nation, pdf08) have a vision of the next step. But something unforeseen—like YouTube did—can change it. Right now, Obamania seems to write the Web 2.0 story of the 2008 election. Ruffini questions this in a well-written blogpost on Techpresident today. It is all about fundraising and that does not fit all purposes at all times.
Control of social networking -?
For now I will leave the tech presentation to Garrett for tonight and allow myself to elaborate on loosing control of the political process because of social networking. The Dean Campaign 04 took social networking to a political “extreme”, and it is useful in insurgent campaigns, but in most cases we need a model capturing the strength of the Internet but retaining control of the political process. I stumbled into this question when I read the wrong chapters in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope.
Please Get FISA Right
In this light, it has been really interesting to follow the group formatting and growth of President Obama – Please Get FISA Right on Obama’s SNS MyBarackObama. Talking about exponential growth, it had more than 14,000 members after a week. At the time, it was the biggest group but now it’s the fifth largest group. This group of Obama supporters used his campaign platform to organize against Obama’s support of the Congressional compromise on FISA.
It is not that surprising that it is happening. I mean this kind of conversation is the purpose of opening up a process allowing peer-to-peer production or collaboration. And in the old-world of politics, constituents have always tried to influence politicians to change policy. But it is NEW that a political campaign opens up, invite its peers to join and open platform, and then a group challenge the candidate from within.
Here is the potential for “a collective, public discussion” but we do obviously not have the norms for it yet. (Read Micha L. Sifry’s critical analysis of MyBarackObama as an organizing tool). For a few days, the blogosphere and others wondered how the Obama campaign would respond. Would Obama really listen?
According to Carlo Scannella, one of the organizers behind the group; “His response to the Get FISA Right group was a moment of validation; this became something real.”Obama’s response did not stop the group, and it is ridiculously easy to organize the grass root campaign online.
So what does it mean? Jeff Jarvis had an interesting point:
Now if a campaign is going to argue that it’s truly grassroots, what is it to do with a revolt or protest from within? I’ve argued since Howard Dean’s run in 2004 that campaigns aren’t or can’t really be bottom-up when it comes to policy. They are necessarily propagandistic: This is what the candidate says. Indeed, Dean’s supporters acted like white blood cells in his blog discussions quite effectively surrounding and strangling dissent and opponents in the bloodstream. That’s the way campaigns have to work if you’re going to decide what this guy stands for and whether to vote for him, right? It’s about the message, no?
And what does it mean for the future? It is great to see this kind of disagreement within a campaign. It is democracy – isn’t? And what we are seeing is that a group is organizing around an issue instead of around a party. As Garrett asked in class a while ago; How will Obama’s supporters influence a Obama White House?
We can only guess. Personally, I am excited and convinced that the possibilities and consequences are just as enormous as it was to send a man to the moon. (Sorry to end the semester with such a cliche).