It has been said over and over again that Barack Obama led on of the most seamless political campaigns ever, and that he did so, in large part, to his use of the Internet and new media tools. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama’s team set some unprecedented heights for the use of the Internet and social tools. Furthermore, these tools created a much more inclusive and transparent campaign–one that many people felt a part of and, in some level, of control over. Now that Obama has won the presidency, many people are wondering how this philosophy of giving government back to the people will play out in more than a campaign. When real issues are on the line, to what extent are the American people going to have input on decisions?
The use of Web 2.0 allows organizations, and now the government, to create dialog with its constituents. But, if the American people were capable of making big time decisions, then there would be no need for the type of government that we have. How, then, will the Obama administration use Web 2.0 to continue to engage the American people, while still maintaining its own sense of rule and power?
So, as Kevin Thurman suggests, I think that it is a great idea to use many of the same tools that Obama used in his campaign as the foundation for the communication and technology platforms of his administration. Things like the databases of my.barackobama.com, Catalist, and change.org will be very useful. But, as Thurman also says, teh Obama administration will also need to reach out to the rest of America–those who didn’t sign up for his campaign emails, and those who did not vote for him.
But, what do you do with all these names, email addresses, and tools to reach them? Continue the web videos? Yes. Emails? Yes. Interactive blogs/vlogs? Of course. But there has to be something more. Of the people who would contact the administration to offer their thoughts on the way things should run, a small percentage will be reasonable. Obviously, Obama does not plan to let people make decisions. I think the main idea is to let people have their opinions heard. But, will this just be an empty exercise to keep the American people busy?
I think all of these ideas are great and will eventually become more commonplace in government and how it is run. Furthermore, the problems that might arise in creating this online citizenship, will likely be trivial (how to weed out nonsense, what to do with the good stuff, and how to respond to people.) Too trivial at that.
I don’t think that the Obama administration will be abe to–or should–successfully pull these things off, not in a first term anyway. There are several more complicated and more pressing issues to deal with, than an undertaking that is essentially an appeal to the emotions of those Americans who feel left out of U.S. governance. Finallly, those emotions won’t matter if after four years, the economy is better, the wars have ended, we have established alternative energy sources and infrastructures, and education and healthcare are on track to full rehabilitation. These are the issues that really matter to Americans, and should be the primary focuses of the Obama administration…not the trial and error of a new system of communication.