Well, that was before we knew the outcome of the election. Now that we do, it appears clear that the answer to the first question is, “Big. The Internet was a very, very big factor.”
From the Denver Post:
Barack Obama's Internet-based campaign has not only made history, it has forever changed the American political process.From The Mercury News:
. . . Over the past two years, Barack Obama carried Dean's pioneering techniques to an exponentially more sophisticated level. Realizing that America is really thousands of separate if often overlapping communities of interest, Obama used the power of the Internet to identify, organize and unite them. He raised probably more than $800 million when the final numbers come in, and that mostly in small sums from millions of donors. In turn, Obama used much of that cash to convert his virtual communities into a network of field offices and a get-out-the-vote team that brought millions of new voters to the polls.
Former vice president Al Gore said Friday he was overwhelmed by Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election and credited the Internet for the campaign's success.
"The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration that all human beings are created equal would not have been possible without ... the Internet," Gore said.
From The Guardian:
While most pundits focused on the question of race, one largely overlooked factor was his powerful techno-demographic appeal. . . . It is no coincidence that one of Obama's key strategists was 24-year-old Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder. Hughes masterminded the Obama campaign's highly effective web blitzkrieg on everything from social networking sites to podcasting and mobile messaging.From U.S. News and World Report:
A key turning point in the long and brutal presidential election involved a YouTube battle between dueling online videos.From the NYTimes:
It was primary season and Barack Obama was being battered in the press because of his relationship with controversial pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Some of Wright's more inflammatory sermons were captured on video and were flying around YouTube.
Instead of letting the clips fester online, the Obama campaign immediately posted on YouTube the candidate's full rebuttal, a 37-minute-long speech on race he delivered to an audience in Philadelphia.
The video clip helped calm the controversy and attracted around 5.3 million views on the video-viewing website, proving the popularity and impact of a medium that was first used widely this election cycle.
One of the many ways that the election of Barack Obama as president has echoed that of John F. Kennedy is his use of a new medium that will forever change politics. For Mr. Kennedy, it was television. For Mr. Obama, it is the Internet.From Information Week:
. . . Mr. Obama used the Internet to organize his supporters in a way that would have in the past required an army of volunteers and paid organizers on the ground, Mr. Trippi said.
“The tools changed between 2004 and 2008. Barack Obama won every single caucus state that matters, and he did it because of those tools, because he was able to move thousands of people to organize.”
Mr. Obama’s campaign took advantage of YouTube for free advertising. Mr. Trippi argued that those videos were more effective than television ads because viewers chose to watch them or received them from a friend instead of having their television shows interrupted.
“The campaign’s official stuff they created for YouTube was watched for 14.5 million hours,” Mr. Trippi said. “To buy 14.5 million hours on broadcast TV is $47 million.”
There has also been a sea change in fact-checking, with citizens using the Internet to find past speeches that prove a politician wrong and then using the Web to alert their fellow citizens.
And it's only the beginning, said Trippi. That kind of networking will likely transform the White House. Trippi anticipates Obama will create a similar social networking for his legislative initiatives and recruit supporters to lobby Congress to get his policies enacted into law.That last quote is key, “It’s only the beginning.” We’ve already got Change.gov, a website for the “Office of the President-Elect,” where the not-campaign-but-not-yet-administration is not only keeping followers updated on what they’re doing, but they are also soliciting input under a section titled “Open Government” with a link titled “It’s Your America: Share Your Ideas.” Does anyone think for a moment that after building up this huge network of supporters that they aren’t going to try to leverage it to help them govern? That they aren’t going to use the incredible community they’ve built to help them drive the conversation and pass legislation? Not to mention, of course, keeping these folks involved so they’re ready, willing and able to going into motion four years from now for Obama-Biden 2.0.
Yes, the issues facing the soon-to-be Obama administration are huge and not quickly or easily solved, and changing governing and politics is a difficult task, but never before has an incoming President had the kind of network and tools at his fingertips that President-Elect Obama has, nor the people who apparently know how to use them well.
So, all this goes back to the second question in the opening paragraph above (and my previous post), how are you helping prepare our students to be successful citizens and participants in Democracy 2.0?
Update 11-14-08: President-Elect Obama is taking the weekly radio address to YouTube as well.