/ 26 May 2008

Last week I asked: “If this social network he is building can attract cash to a campaign, just imagine how effectively it can attract talent to an administration. You don’t imagine they will just throw that network away if elected, do you?” This week Marc Ambinder answers in The Atlantic:

What Obama seems to promise is, at its outer limits, a participatory democracy in which the opportunities for participation have been radically expanded. He proposes creating a public, Google-like database of every federal dollar spent. He aims to post every piece of non-emergency legislation online for five days before he signs it so that Americans can comment. A White House blog—also with comments—would be a near certainty. Overseeing this new apparatus would be a chief technology officer.

Ambinder’s column HisSpace: How would Obama’s success in online campaigning translate into governing? is well worth a read. He goes on to say,

Today Obama is like a brand, his campaign like a $250 million company, and the voters like customers; the persuasion flows one way. If he becomes president, then power, authority, and legitimacy will flow in both directions; voters who are now keen to support the idea of Obama may push against his initiatives in office, sometimes unpredictably.

Not quite. I think, actually, Obama has run a campaign that is remarkably two-way, especially for politics. Not only has he kept everyone in the drivers seat rhetorically (“this campaign” or “our campaign” he usually says instead of “my campaign”), but he has also accepted the impromptu assistance of his supporters by using their campaign offices and their videos. Granted, the goal is simply to get him elected, but I think he has begun to demonstrate that he is ready to engage the nation like no other recent president. Once governing the goal becomes much more complex and our continued engagement and commitment critical to success.

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