Business, Leadership

Why We Love Barak Obama and Feel So Disconnected from John McCain

On September 25th, 1960 Richard Nixon was leading in the race for President.  His opponent, John Kennedy was young and inexperienced and after several radio broadcast debates Nixon was the clear frontrunner. 

Nixon2_2On September 26th, 1960 everything changed.  That night 70 million U.S. viewers tuned in to watch the first ever televised presidential debate. Even though nothing in the candidates message had changed, extensive polling of the television audience showed Kennedy to be the winner of the debate by a very large margin. 

What was the difference?  Kennedy embraced the new medium of the day, Nixon did not.    Kennedy loved the camera, and the camera loved him.  Nixon refused to wear make-up and the hot lights had him sweating before the debate even began.  One observer noted, ‚ÄúThere was no mistaking the distinction between the ease with which JFK related to the living rooms of America and the sense of desperateness that Nixon's intensity gave off.‚Äù

We‚Äôre seeing the same thing happen today.  Barak Obama has embraced new media.  He announced his VP choice to millions of Americans via text message before he told the traditional media and each and every one of them felt like they got something special, that they were an insider.  Those folks can say they knew before CNN…you can bet he‚Äôs got their vote.  He has more followers on Twitter than any other user (over 70,000).   He takes his message directly to the nation, often completely bypassing the middle-man of traditional media. He‚Äôs even been reported to exchange personal emails and text messages.  ‚ÄúHis people‚Äù feel more connected to him than any other candidate, ever.

Obama gets it.  He understands that new media is a conversation, a tool used for two-way communication.  He‚Äôs a guy we can relate to, that‚Äôs accessible and we‚Äôd feel comfortable having a cup of coffee with (this isn‚Äôt about my personal politics but my observations about who‚Äôs embracing new marketing effectively).

McCain on the other hand seems to miss it completely.  His web site looks like something from a Mad Magazine spoof and he‚Äôs noticeably absent from most of the social networking sites.  I have no idea what McCain is up to these days, but thanks to twitter I know which cities Obama has been visiting.

When it comes to election day the Obama campaign will have built an incredible ‚Äúget out the vote‚Äù machine and I think it will win him the election.  On that day, what would the McCain campaign give to have millions of people who had given their permission for him to drop them a personal note via text message reminding them that it was time to vote?

11/06/2008 – Update: Here's an interesting post election post – Obama vs. McCain Social Media Scorecard

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12 thoughts on “Why We Love Barak Obama and Feel So Disconnected from John McCain

  1. great post Jon and I agree completely. As a life-long Republican it’s tough to admit, but I think the Dems have this one.
    McCain admitted last month that he rarely even goes online and when he does, he has to have someone else type in the URL…he doesn’t know how to surf!
    As I posted on May 1: http://www.michaelstaires.com/2008/05/get-ready-for-t.html
    the generational battle lines are drawn and Obama laid it on thick last night. New, young, change, different against old, status quo and more of the same.

  2. Jon,
    Your post is so true. For me, as a poli sci major, politics were pretty boring lately. Then Obama showed his new media skills. I am all ears because as you said, he gets it. Most Americans know very little about the candidates. Unless they go out and research on sites like http://votesmart.org/ they get all of their information from the mass media sources or the neighborhood pundit. If they vote, most are voting for a candidate they know very little about. In my opinion no one loses when we have one more way of gaining information about a presidential candidate. I wish every American could read at least one book on politics and the media. So much is at stake when we leave it up to the “Big Six” (http://tinyurl.com/3sy26) to tell us who to vote for. I will keep following @BarackObama and now @SarahPalin on twitter, if that really is her.
    John

  3. Bill says:

    Jon,
    Yeah–I think what’s revealing to me about this is that the new great social divide that’s emerging is along ability to use technology and by extension, between young and old.
    I just turned 50, have three teenagers, and while I try to keep up–I find i’m often left in the dust over not being tech savy.
    What’s also critical to see is that when you say Obama “get’s it” and McCain doesn’t that the medium (or sophistication thereof) doesn’t get confused with the message, policies, and character of the person delivering it. Regardless of who you support for president, if we begin, as I fear we have already begun, to let the person’s skills at harnessing communication eclipse what’s inside the person, we are dooming ourselves to an ever more shallow reality show-like society where we can all communicate in an instant, but have less and less that’s worth saying or hearing, because the source of our discourse is increasingly not great ideas from over the centuries, but a collective wiki of everyone’s personal opinions.
    It looks to me like many people in the generations after me will choose to vote for Obama (and others who have used the tools well) because of their felling of affinity over getting a text from them without looking carefully at the people they are voting for, and not voting for.
    I sincerely hope my assessment is an overreaction.

  4. Brian says:

    Maybe McCain doesn’t get the modern communications genre; many in his generation do not. But is that the criteria for not voting for him? What about moral issues such as abortion and homosexulity. If you are not a believer, these probably don’t matter to you, but if you are, they should. Also, what about economics? Bigger government and higher taxes are known by most economists as a drag on a healthy economy. John McCain doesn’t have to be computer literate, he has people that do that work for him. The important points are how our president honors God and helps the people with sound policies.

  5. Jennifer Wymore says:

    Hey Jon! Hope you guys are doing well!
    I would have to say I agree with Brian (the last post).
    Take care, the Wymore Family

  6. Tony V says:

    Bro… you missed the non-superficial part…
    Nixon overwhelmingly won the debate to those who listened on the radio.
    We let superficial things fog the political landscape and it becomes a media (or multi-media) campaign of sound bites with no depth.
    Your generation has such a shallow attention span and most often fail to not only grab the historical precedents, but fail to grasp the core issues.
    If you really like Obama because he is media savvy and embraces the latest communication technology and avoid that fact that his core message is a 100 year old socialist agenda … I am glad you can’t vote.
    Read up on Woodrow Wilson my British friend and then evaluate what Obama’s economic policies and world-view will do to the USA.

  7. Bryan says:

    Brian said “But is that the criteria for not voting for him? What about moral issues such as abortion and homosexulity.”
    You are right. Those should be the issues. But unfortunately, as with Nixon and Kennedy, the one who wields media well tends to win no matter what the position. We all know it shouldn’t be true, but this blog shows that historically, it is true.
    Tony V said “Your generation has such a shallow attention span and most often fail to not only grab the historical precedents, but fail to grasp the core issues.”
    This isn’t only true of the current generation, but as I think this blog points out, it was true 30 years ago too. Embracing new media decided the president in your generation as well… and it very well may do it again.
    I do think, Tony V, that you are being unfair to accuse the author or “this generation”. As I read this, the blog author is trying to point out a pattern in history. He is not saying that pattern is good and is not trying to say Obama would be his personal vote. He is making a comment on the power of new media (as he does in many of his other posts).
    The site author has a history of discussing the effect of social media and marketing. I think his point here is well made.

  8. John says:

    Wow, I had to go back and read your original post to remind myself that you were really just pointing out a fact. If someone was to simply jump into the comments they would think you said something about your vote in Nov. Again you were pointing out a candidate‚Äôs ability to use today’s technology to connect and communicate.
    I was amused at the last post as well. Specifically “Your generation has such a shallow attention span and most often fail to not only grab the historical precedents, but fail to grasp the core issues.” Ouch. Lately as election emotions get hot, something that still really annoys me about this countries one, I mean two party system, is that people can not discuss politics without going after the jugular. In college I had a professor from oxford that spent most of his time trying to explain these odd phenomena here in the US. He would tell us stories about going to pubs in England and other local watering holes throughout Europe with friends from many different beliefs. They all had great conversations and at the end of the night they still remained friendly and civil. Here though if you speak about politics, faces get red and good friends draw lines in the sand. And that is in the living rooms of our houses. I would not dare bring it up in a pub.
    In political races most candidates start by saying they will sling no mud. Anyone that has studied any race knows that they will eventually bow to their advisors and release some type of ugly on their opponent. Why, because the US is stuck in race horse politics. It is another Monday night game for us and we eat it all up. The media sells us hype and we buy beer and popcorn to follow the tackles, pummels, neck breaks, and touchdowns.
    I would love a day when real issues can be discussed and people can say what they really believe with out having to agree lock stock and barrel with a party that has no real interest in their well being. I believe that our government is a divine tool and we can not place our trust in it but the hand that uses that tool.
    Going back to the “Your generation” comment, in a community I am part of we have had a problem of labeling each other. I have been reading Divine Conspiracy and in it Dallas Willard talks about the contempt we carry with us in calling each other names and labels. He specifically refers to the names baby boomer and gen-x. I have been convicted lately of all of the contempt I hold in my heart still, for those who do not believe the ways I do. It has been a very hard lesson but one I hope everyone can receive. If I have said anything here in contempt I apologize.
    Phew. Anyone for another pitcher of brew?

  9. Tony V says:

    Bryan said:
    As I read this, the blog author is trying to point out a pattern in history. He is not saying that pattern is good and is not trying to say Obama would be his personal vote. He is making a comment on the power of new media (as he does in many of his other posts).
    Jon said in his post:
    McCain on the other hand seems to miss it completely. His web site looks like something from a Mad Magazine spoof and he’s noticeably absent from most of the social networking sites. I have no idea what McCain is up to these days, but thanks to twitter I know which cities Obama has been visiting.
    Reader’s Call.
    And Bryan… I know Jon will not vote for Obama, he can’t vote.
    The 1960 election was very close and I will concede that had Nixon understood the potential power of presentation he could have captured the extra 112K votes needed to close the deal.
    Percentage 49.7% 49.6% was the final popular vote tally (the electoral college was significantly advantaged to Kennedy however)
    The next election was the beginning of the end for a battle of ideas and the first true TV battle of 30 second sound bites, emotional pleas and the precursor of our modern cesspool of campaign strategies. In any poly-sci class dealing with the media the LBJ ad run against Goldwater is a classic.
    Jon’s premise is valid. His conclusions drawn from Nixon/Kennedy campaigns as they apply to McCain/Obama I think are erroneous.
    Political marketing is about audience identification and demographic penetration. Both campaigns are run by staffs, not the individual candidates, both campaigns have staff members who are experts in respective communications technologies, both campaigns employee strategist who are fully aware of the social media products available, both campaigns made informed decisions based upon sound strategies for penetrating specific demographic targets. So drawing a conclusion that McCain “seems to miss it completely” while Obama “gets it” is an erroneous conclusion in my estimation.
    A question could be raised, questioning the intelligence of the McCain camp in not pursuing the specific demographic target that finds the most value and benefit from social media widgetry.
    I know Jon loves it what his activity on his blog jumps with controversy… woop woop!

  10. Brian says:

    I think there are very few “good” people involved in politics anymore. I think most can be had at a price. In my lifetime I have seen very few that would take principled stands no matter which side of the aisle they sat.
    In the current election, neither candidate excited me. As a conservative I felt that McCain spent more time appeasing Democrats than standing with his party. I think his views on immigration and campaign finance reform are disasters. However he is and always has been very pro-life.
    The more I learn about Obama, the less I like. In a word, he is a socialist. When he told Joe the Plumber that “it was a good thing to spread the wealth around,” I wondered where he found that principle in our Constitution. His pro-abortion stance is more than abhorent, it’s infanticide. I could go on and on.
    The simple truth is, our founding fathers wouldn’t recognize government today. It looks nothing like what they had intended. They knew you couldn’t dialog with a beaurocrat in some far away city, but you could have some influence with your neighbor. Keeping the government small and close to home was the plan. I know we can never go back. And it’s a shame too.

  11. Jon,
    I find it interesting to read your comments on Seth Godin’s Tribes along with your comments on Nixon/Kennedy. Agree with you wholeheartedly that Nixon didn’t get the new media,just as McCain doesn’t get the new media. And the complaint about radio listeners thinking Nixon won the debate is irrelevant. Perception is reality is perception. It’s similar to when I’m prepping people to give a public presentation and they complain to me that I am spending way too much time on how they look and how they sound, rather than on what they say. I tell them that if they can’t get the audience to respond to how they look and how they sound the audience will never listen to what they say.
    But back to Godin & Obama. The tribe Obama has built is incredible. Your example of Obama twittering his VP choice is a perfect example of Godin’s “insiders/outsiders” philosophy. And the morning after the election, when ‘change.gov’ was already up and running–not simply as a 1-way info delivery mechanism but as a vehicle for dialogue, I knew not only this election but also this presidency were going to be very different.
    I haven’t heard “Of the people, by the people, for the people” in a long time. And so far, I’m impressed with the actions the Obama team is taking that are making it easier for the people to be more involved.

  12. Carolyn Spence says:

    This is a question from another old fogey… If Obama sent a text message to so many about his VP choice, does that mean all those people now have his cell phone number?

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