Week 6 | Obama Drove His Own Success
Posted by Natalie Rausch
I was listening to NPR on the radio on the way home from work on Thursday when an interesting story came on the air. Ahmed Al Omran, a NPR social media intern was discussing the how social media was helping to influence political change in the Middle East in an interview on Morning Edition with host, Renee Montagne. Omran spoke about how new technologies and tools like Twitter and Facebook allowed bloggers in Arab countries to “stimulate and accelerate political change in the region.” He was on a panel at a meeting for bloggers discussing the role of the social media, and discussed this with Montagne:
MONTAGNE: You know, much was said about Twitter at the time because Twitter, of course, is much quicker and can really, you know, help organizationally. What are people there saying about the role of Twitter?
OMRAN: I was sitting on a panel about the role of Twitter on the first day, and most people on the panel seemed to agree that while Twitter was important to help people to organize and also to get the word out, and then it’s just a tool. You know, we cannot call this a Twitter revolution or a Facebook revolution. It’s the revolution of the people. And the people in that revolution would use whatever tools that are available to them.
I thought, bingo, Omran—it wasn’t Twitter or Facebook that caused Obama to be elected to presidency in 2008. Obama was just using whatever tools he had available on the road to presidential victory, and using them extremely well. I disagree with Qualman’s comment in Socialnomics that “Obama would not be president without the Internet (Qualman, p 87).” It’s hard to say what would have happened if Obama ran a traditional advertising campaign. That is a speculative premise. Would Obama not have used traditional media well enough to win the election?
When all was said and done, the campaign was still about people casting votes. People voted for Obama because he connected with them. He was extremely charismatic, he had a popular message of political change, and he didn’t have much political baggage. Like Montagne said with tools like Twitter, his messages were delivered quickly, and the conversation between presidential hopeful and voters was a two-way conversation. People connected with the man through his camp’s tweets and behind the scenes footage. Obama’s eloquent speaking abilities sealed the deal with the American public.
This reminds me of another presidential hopeful who used new media to his advantage. John F. Kennedy used television to his advantage over Richard Nixon during the famous televised debate between the two. Kennedy looked glowing and calm while Nixon looked haggard and nervous. That was a milestone debate because after it, everyone learned that makeup and camera charisma was essential to putting the right foot forward on TV. Obama wasn’t elected because he had the internet, although he was the first presidential candidate to utilize social media tools extremely well to connect with people.
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