Where did Obama’s campaign smart mob go?
January 1st, 2010

A long and fascinating post called “The Obama Disconnect: What Happens When Myth Meets Reality,” at techPresident includes some thoughts on what happened to the huge social network the campaign aroused. The post author Micah Sifry, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, is an authority on technology and politics. Here are a couple of highlights from his post:

If you could trust your volunteers to carry the campaign in all sorts of important ways, why not also give them a real say in how they could shake up Washington?

The answer, ultimately, is that Plouffe and the rest of Obama’s leadership team, wasn’t really interested in grassroots empowerment. Instead, they think they’ve invented a 21st century version of list-building, and to some degree they’re right. (It’s for that reason that I think of the Obama campaign as the first 21st century top-down campaign, while McCain’s was the last 20th century top-down version). For Plouffe, the gigantic Obama email list, its millions of donors and its vibrant online social network were essentially a new kind of top-down broadcast system, one even better than the old TV-dominated system. . . .

“Rahm was a five-tool political player: a strategist with deep policy expertise, considerable experience in both the legislative and executive branches, and a demeanor best described as relentless.” (p. 372) Note that nowhere in that vital skill-set is any sense of how to work with the largest volunteer base any presidential campaign has developed in history. Rahm Emanuel came up in politics the old-fashioned way; organizing and empowering ordinary people are the least of his skills. . . .

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