Obama’s New Democracy

Can’t let an opportunity like the astonishing victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential election pass without plucking a lesson or two from it. The main one is that – to echo the opening line of Obama’s brilliant acceptance speech – if there is anyone who still doubts that technology is changing everything, they’ve now been schooled in the new realities of the 21st Century. Obama has already been called America’s first Internet President, and not without reason. He elevated the use of social networking tools – viral marketing, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the sexy and celebratory music videos of Obama Girl – to not only accumulate the biggest campaign war chest in history, but also to connect and mobilize dozens, if not hundreds of disparate “communities” that were previously ignored or marginalized by the existing power structure. In a sense, the Obama team reinvented democracy in America, achieving its original purpose. Democracy is supposed to be about governors listening to the many voices of the people. But for a long time those voices were ignored, and only one – largely that of the traditional power structure – was heard. No longer. Already the Obama transition team – which embraced open source thinking wholeheartedly by employing 95 people on the Internet arm of its campaign – is beefing up the new media component of the White House communications operation. It wants to keep this new form of democracy active by circumventing the traditional media, eg. newspapers and other information gatekeepers and communicating directly with the people who elected him. So if a president-elect who changed political campaigning forever has wholesale adopted social media in his organization, isn’t it time corporations do the same? Surely, Obama’s drubbing of the Republican forces through the use of new communications should be a lesson to every company today. As Obama said so often and effectively, it’s time for a change.