The first real 21st century poll


THE ELECTION of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President and the first African-American Head of State of the United States, a country with a distinct history of slavery, has been a most stunning affair the world bore witness to. It is being heralded as a new era in the arena of global politics and governance.

Money, relationship building, ground troops, support systems, backup strategies — all of these were needed, as a campaign is nothing but a start-up business. Obama had a Lilliputian resumé as compared to the people he was up against. He was a diminutive brand, with only a two-year worth of experience in the Senate as compared to others. He did not have a legacy behind him like Hilary Clinton did, with her traditional sources of power and an ex- President for a husband. Nor did he have the kind of political expertise and finesse like McCain. But he had the right ideas. He had a small political base, so he concentrated on building a large social base — millions of supporters willing to be engaged in this historic moment of truth. And to reach out to them, he trusted the Internet. The directness associated with it exuded an environment of transparency. The online movement begot offline behaviour: youth voter turnout was enormous. The Obama campaign has been very 21st century.

One of the more unexpected and innovative promotion ideas in the Obama campaign was to buy up computer game space to tap the typical male (18-34 years old) demographic, which is one of the hardest to communicate with. This had been done for almost 18 video games, including the hot favourite XBox 360 game Burnout Paradise, as well as Guitar Hero and Madden 09. Also, there are games like Super Obama World (copyright Zensoft) on the lines of basic Mario, where you become Barack Obama and play.

It also helped that Obama is young. While Clinton/McCain considered the reach of the Internet as only peripheral, Obama turned these media into money-making, loyaltygenerating machinery for his campaign. Given how indispensable social media proved in ensuring Obama’s victory, let’s see how the rest of the world catches up.

Vatsala Srivastava studies at the Amity School of Communication, Amity University.


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