One of the primary factors that led to Obama’s victory was his campaign’s overwhelming advantage in using the internet to both organize their supporters and beg them for money. This latter point especially added to the air of a campaign fueled by the many small contributions of the common man and not the few gigantic contributions of special interests (the extent to which this is true can be debated but I generally agree with this interpretation).

According to CNN, this mastery of the web will extend into his presidency. Most of you already know about Change.gov or have heard about it as the primary web portal for begging the new administration for jobs. An excerpt from aforelinked article, however, show that this may just be the tip of the iceberg of President Obama’s efforts to reach out to the public in the online medium:

People who follow Obama online have become a community that the president-elect can tap into, said Andrew Raseij, founder of TechPresident.com, a Web site that tracked the online operations of the 2008 presidential campaigns.

“He now has his own special interest. He has a group of people he can go to and ask them to participate in helping him pass his legislative agenda,” Raseij said.

He also predicted that Obama will use online video and interactivity to revolutionize the way the commander in chief communicates.

“I think the days of just a Saturday morning radio address and an occasional press conference as the way the president speaks to the American public are over,” Raseij said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Barack Obama starts doing a weekly YouTube video and also fireside chats for the 21st century by allowing people to filter up questions to him that he might answer.”

The president-elect already has said he’ll have a five-day online comment period before signing any nonemergency legislation, so Americans can be part of the process.

I find this to be a very positive and possibly effective move on Obama’s part, especially considering the extent to which people have abandoned print in favor of the internet as their primary source for news (the post-election newspaper stampede notwithstanding). It also furthers the perception that Obama “gets it”, in this case “it” being the fact that he’s going to be governing a nation in which the rising generations (myself and many of my friends included) cannot concieve of modern life without the internet. The idea of a comment period on legislation is especially interesting, as it not only get people engaged in the actual legislative process but also counters charges of the presidency being a watered-down monarchy. The extent to which this is effective will of course depend on how much he actually heeds such comments.

And of course there are disadvantages: this being THE INTERNET we’re talking about these comment boards would have to be strenuously moderated, especially in a culture where flaunting one’s idiocy on YouTube comment threads has become something of a passtime. Let us not at this juncture even conceive of what would transpire were Obama to somehow incur the wrath of 4Chan, let alone Anonymous.

In spite of the possible pitfalls, I do see this as being a fundamentally good move, both for the Obama Administration and the cause of public relations in the US in general. Now is the time to get people of my generation interested in politics and governing. We’ve been lured in by the Obama Campaign, it’s time for the Administration to keep us around.

We’re All In This Together

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