This weeks readings discussed the important role of social media in helping Barack Obama develop a successful campaign. One of the key components that Kreiss elaborates was used by the Obama campaign was creating as much positive buzz as possible on political blogs. As we have discussed in class, political blogs are especially important in campaigns because they give a voice to the people. They allow the voters to speak their minds about a particular candidate or platform and the person running for office (or his political campaign staff) to respond. What was unique about the Obama campaign is that it utilized a form of grassroots mobilization that had never been done so successfully before.
Kreiss specifically focuses on the aspect of “network building” in the Obama campaign as attempting to create ties between pro-Obama supporters that would in turn create a useful network of people for information spreading. This reminded me a lot of Shirky’s argument about the difference between “bridging and building social capital.” I would argue that Shirky would agree that the Obama campaign strategies did both, bridged and bonded. Shirky might argue that during the Obama campaign the bridging occurred within the clusters of Obama supported who were united by blogs, social media, etc., which allowed them to bond essentially making the group as a whole stronger. Shirky might argue that the Obama campaign ALSO allowed the bonding of social capital the campaign allowed people from a variety of different groups to come together under the umbrella of support for social change through the people. After these people came together, as a group they were much more powerful than they were separately, and bonding began to happen between clusters of Obama supporters, also enabled by blogs.
My argument however, which Kreiss briefly address, is that it wasn’t simply strategy alone that allowed the Obama campaign to be successful, rather it was the strategy of grassroots mobilization combined with an entire campaign platform that revolved around mobilizing the masses, the underdogs, minorities, etc., alike into one group that together can create change, that allowed his campaign to be successful. These 2 things together, is what made his campaign unique. In political science we commonly call this the “median voter theorem.” It basically means that in a typical bell curve distribution, there is greatest support among the middles than on the extremes, therefore, as a politician one should aim to attract the “median voter” for support. While I think many politicians may strive for this, I would argue that Obama’s campaign is the closest in history to actually achieving this. Would you agree?