PJ Rey and I have been following the 2012 presidential campaign on this blog with social media in mind. We watch as President Obama and the republican contenders try to look social-media-y to garner dollars and votes. However, the social media use has thus far been more astroturfing than grassroots. There have been more social media photo-opts to appear tech-savvy than using the web to fundamentally make politics something that grows from the bottom-up. Presidential politics remain far more like Britannica than Wikipedia.
But this might all change, at least according to Thomas Friedman yesterday in the New York Times. He describes Americans Elect, a non-profit attempting to build an entire presidential campaign from the ground up. This might be our first glimpse of an open and social presidential web-based campaign. From their website,
Americans Elect is the first-ever open nominating process. We’re using the Internet to give every single voter — Democrat, Republican or independent — the power to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012. The people will choose the issues. The people will choose the candidates. And in a secure, online convention next June, the people will make history by putting their choice on the ballot in every state.
As the 2012 presidential race ever so slowly gains momentum it remains clear that social media will be influencing elections for a long time to come. In the long run, does the shift towards social media campaigning change who is perceived to be a legitimate candidate? If so, social media might change who wins elections and therefore changes how we are governed. Avoiding [for now] the issue of whether social media has inherent tendencies towards the left or right, what I want to ask is: opposed to old media, does new media benefit political underdogs and outsiders?
As Republicans announce presidential bids on Twitter and Obama gets friendly with Zuckerberg and Facebook, it seems that the presidential campaign has found itself augmented by and reliant upon social media tools; some of the very same tools many of us use, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. Part of their popularity is that one can view and be viewed by people from all over the world in an instant and for no cost. It does not cost money to publish this post or to tweet about it later on. Social media campaigning is also relatively cheap; indeed, often times free. Alternatively, print advertising is expensive because space is scarce and the scarcity of broadcast time makes television and radio too costly for underdogs and outsiders to fairly compete. However, when we exchange atoms for bits we enter into a world of abundance, a world where broadcasting a message quickly and globally becomes cheap and easy.
This cheaper social-media campaign style may remove or at least lesson (more…)