Sunday, December 28, 2008

Politics Is No Longer Local - It's Viral
By Jose Antonio Vargas
Sunday, December 28, 2008

It was through news clips posted on YouTube -- and through Obama's YouTube channel, which lists more than 1,800 videos -- that groups [of people] learned about the Illinois senator's policies and positions.

And it was mostly on the Internet, in one of those ubiquitous, inescapable Web ads -- the campaign spent $8 million on online advertising -- that they heard about Obama's text-messaging program. "I only get texts from my friends," Andy Green, a 20-year-old sophomore, told me. "Let me correct that: I only get texts from my friends and from Obama."

In the past, we've thought of politics as something over there -- isolated, separate from our daily lives, as if on a stage upon which journalists, consultants, pollsters and candidates spun and dictated and acted out the process. Now, because of technology in general and the Internet in particular, politics has become something tangible. Politics is right here. You touch it; it's in your laptop and on your cellphone. You control it, by forwarding an e-mail about a candidate, donating money or creating a group. Politics is personal. Politics is viral. Politics is individual.

And we're just getting started.

Obama's unprecedented online success guarantees that there's not a single campaign in 2012, Democratic or Republican, that won't place the Web at the core of its operation. The floodgates are open. This doesn't mean just hiring Web developers, bloggers, videographers -- the works. It also means using the Internet to invite people into the process, giving them something to work for, offering them a stake in victory or defeat. More than any other medium in our history, the Web is by the people, for the people. Starting with Howard Dean, continuing with Obama and stretching out into the future, this new dynamic will transform the way campaigns are run -- and, beyond that, the way the winning candidate governs. Fundamentally, all of this is redefining our relationship with our politics.

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