Posted by: Paul Jenkins | March 7, 2008

I have a man-crush on Barack Obama

The interior of the suburban restaurant is cast aglow by lights keeping cars safe in a parking lot on the outskirts of Tampa. I am an unusual guest, so my entrance, fiddling the truck keys in my pocket, makes me look like a pervert.

I spot him immediately; he’s at the far end of the bar; his posture is commendable. There’s a long table set out in front of where he stands. On it are t-shirts, buttons and stickers with his picture and message.

It’s true, even if cliché, that this presidential candidate is nothing short of tall, dark and handsome. His offer of hope isn’t bad either.

I’m at a plaza pub because I’m smitten by the message of a man I’m only recently getting to know. His campaign exemplifies the possible manifestations of our digital world.

Barack Obama is using our online connections to bring grassroots action to fruition. He has, in the words Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, “exploited the social networking sites (and built one of his own), and understood the interaction between virtual communities and real communities.”

Earlier in the day I entered my mother’s Florida zip code on my.barackobama.com – MyBo, to its users. It’s easy to use and quickly teaches me about his candidacy and the myriad of Facebook type sites out there that he is using to fuel his campaign: BlackPlanet, AsianAve and Faithbase, for example.

I’m on reading week from public relations school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – still obsessed with the media foisted upon me because of my studies. Obama is using the tools I am taught to perfection – and because of it, he is changing the very qualities of our interactions with each other.

Obama is truly changing the world. According to the presidential candidate himself:

No campaign has ever raised this much in a single month in the history of presidential primaries. But more important than the total is how we did it – more than 90% of donations were $100 or less, and more than 385,000 new donors in February pushed us past our goal of more than 1,000,000 people owning a piece of this campaign.

As a citizen of our world, one human being on what is, beyond all else, one little rock in the sky, I want the leader of our strongest nation-state to look at our capacity to improve our living conditions and say, “yes, we can do better and I know how.”

Indeed, I want change. Obama recognizes the importance of the American Presidency in controlling the fate of our planet. And he, unlike Clinton, understands and is in the midst of demonstrating, the best way to act upon this belief.

More than that though, Obama inspires. His actions empower individuals to act for justice in this world. The people of our planet need his message of hope. America needs his message of hope. The world needs an American President who acts upon his/her skills. One who doesn’t simply spew rhetoric, but who mobilizes people to action.

Together, we need this leader to look at the world through a lens of hope. We need this leader to recognize the possible applications of our new and now total digital interactions with each other. Obama’s response to these truths is a revolution.

And, it hasn’t happened by accident. Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand tells Rolling Stone magazine that “We didn’t make the assumption that people signing up on our Web site meant that they were going to help the candidate or even vote for him. From the beginning, we had an initiative to take our online force offline.”

Obama is an organizer. He has the unique ability to mobilize people – to put ideas into action. Both his career and life are backed by examples of community, state, national and now worldly organization.

Obama is the only presidential candidate that looks at the external environment of American influence and recognizes how it has changed. He does so as the only presidential candidate with the tools to serve America’s best interest.

Obama’s online presence, his Internet brand, his entire campaign is, at the risk of sounding pretentious and laughable, Plato’s form of what can be of our digital connections.

Mani Ghansah, a well spoken Obama volunteer organized the March 4th Watch Party for Obama supporters that I attend in Florida. As a Canadian I can’t donate and don’t yet know if I can volunteer.

I’m there, I explain, because I want them to know they have support in my country. Plus, it was the closest event I could find online at MyBo that wasn’t full or in someone’s living room.

I practice my ice breaker on the drive from my snowbird mother’s trailer park to the Watch Party some 20 miles (32 km) away. “If Obama’s key message is yes, we can,” I say, “my Canadian Prime Minister’s key message is “no, we can’t,”” It works, Ghansah laughs.

I don’t bother to explain that my comment is made because the Prime Minister of Canada isn’t funding my country’s cities or signing the Kyoto Protocol. Or, that like George W. Bush, he has cut taxes for the rich. In fact, I don’t even bother to share his name at all. He’s a pessimistic, paternalistic, poop.

Instead, I just nod and pose next to the cardboard cut out of Obama that is being shared between various volunteers in the Tampa region – I smile. Ghansah takes my picture and I can see in his eyes that he knows why I’ve come – the world needs hope.

Good luck, Barack Obama. I’m cheering for you.

—-

I’ve pasted an alternate version of the above posting below. It focuses less on the emotional appeal of Obama and more on the social media he is using to fuel his campaign.

The interior of the suburban restaurant is cast aglow by lights keeping cars safe in a parking lot on the outskirts of Tampa. I am an unusual guest, so my entrance, fiddling the truck keys in my pocket, makes me look like a pervert.

I spot him immediately; he’s at the far end of the bar; his posture is commendable. There’s a long table set out in front of where he stands. On it are t-shirts, buttons and stickers with his picture and message.

It’s true, even if cliché, that this presidential candidate is nothing short of tall, dark and handsome. His offer of hope isn’t half-bad either.

I’m at a plaza pub because I’m smitten by the message of a man I’m only recently getting to know. I’m not just there because of his killer looks and eloquent oratory, however. I’m there because his candidacy exemplifies the possible manifestations of our digital world.

Obama’s campaign has, in the words of Simon Rosenberg, president of the Democratic think tank NDN, “married the incredibly powerful online community [it] built with real on-the-ground field operations.”

Barack Obama is using our online connections to bring grass-roots action to fruition. He has, according to Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, “exploited the social networking sites (and built one of his own), and understood the interaction between virtual communities and real communities.”

Earlier in the day I entered my mother’s Florida zip code on my.barackobama.com – MyBo, to its users – created with the help of one of the founders of Facebook. It’s easy to use and quickly teaches me about his candidacy. More importantly, it also facilitates my own participation in his campaign.

I’m on reading week from public relations school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – still obsessed with the media foisted upon me because of my studies. Obama is using the tools I am taught to perfection – and because of it, he is changing the very qualities of our interactions with each other.

The results are impressive. According to an e-mail sent to me by Obama himself:

No campaign has ever raised this much in a single month in the history of presidential primaries. But more important than the total is how we did it – more than 90% of donations were $100 or less, and more than 385,000 new donors in February pushed us past our goal of more than 1,000,000 people owning a piece of this campaign.

As a citizen of our world, one human being on what is, beyond all else, one little rock in the sky, I want the leader of our strongest nation-state to understand the practical applications of social media – a leader who says, “yes, we can do better and I know how.”

Obama’s social media efforts empower individuals. Moreover, they provide individuals with the necessary tools and requisite direction to act upon their convictions. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod explains:

Part of this new era of politics has been learning how to surrender command-and-control aspects of the campaign. If you really want grass-roots participation, then you have to give folks at the grass roots some autonomy to do this in their own way.

And, it hasn’t happened by accident. Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand tells Rolling Stone magazine that:

We didn’t make the assumption that people signing up on our Web site meant that they were going to help the candidate or even vote for him. From the beginning, we had an initiative to take our online force offline.

Obama is an organizer – he has the unique ability to mobilize people – to put ideas into action. Both his career and life are backed by examples of community, state, national and now worldly organization.

What excites me about Obama’s use of social media is it communicates the message that not only do individuals have a stake in his presidential campaign, they have an opportunity to affect change in their own lives, their own communities, their own countries.

Indeed, he is the only presidential candidate left that looks at the external environment of American influence and recognizes how it has changed. Obama does so as the only presidential candidate with the tools to serve America’s best interest.

Obama’s online presence, his Internet brand, his entire campaign is, at the risk of sounding pretentious and laughable, Plato’s form of what can be of our digital connections.

Mani Ghansah, a well spoken Obama volunteer organized the March 4th Watch Party for Obama supporters that I attend in Florida. As a Canadian I can’t donate and don’t yet know if I can volunteer.

I’m there, I explain, because I want them to know they have support in my country. Plus, it was the closest event I could find online at MyBo that wasn’t full or in someone’s living room.

I practice my ice breaker on the drive from my snowbird mother’s trailer park to the Watch Party some 20 miles (32 km) away. “If Obama’s key message is yes, we can,” I say, “my Canadian Prime Minister’s key message is “no, we can’t,”” It works, Ghansah laughs.

I don’t bother to explain that my comment is made because the Prime Minister of Canada isn’t funding my country’s cities or signing the Kyoto Protocol. Or, that he has made no effort to connect with his citizens using social media – because he hasn’t even bothered to connect with his citizens at all. In fact, I don’t even bother to share his name – he’s a pessimistic, paternalistic, poop.

Instead, I just nod and pose next to the cardboard cut out of Obama that is being shared between various volunteers in the Tampa region. Ghansah takes my picture – a Canadian in America – smiling, hoping for change.

Good luck, Barack Obama. I’m cheering for you.

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Responses

  1. I applaud you for being the only Canadian presence at Obama’s Watch Party. I too would introduce myself to the crowd as a Canadian but make sure to not associate myself with our dreadful Prime Minister – Stephen Harper.

    I support Obama because he stands for hope and his message, “Yes we can,” resonates well with me. When I hear him speak, I want to get up and vote in AMERICA. Ever since I reached voting age, I’ve voted in EVERY provincial, municipal and federal election. It saddens me how so many Americans refuse to vote especially when they have such a dynamic leader in Obama.

    I also love what the Obama campaign is doing on the social media front. They have a strong presence on Facebook and I’m a subscriber to his campaign. I love receiving messages about his campaign; it’s very encouraging and inspiring.

    I am a Canadian and I support Barack Obama!

  2. As a Canadian, I find it interesting how popular the presidential hopefuls are with the international audience.

    It makes me think about voting and the hoops Americans have to jump through just to vote.

    But this post is about Barack Obama, and not the mess that is the American voting system.

    I want to believe that I support change, and to me Barck is a VERY big change when it comes to American politics. I support him because I want to see something new and he is that something new for me. Like I said before, Barck is a hot topic in my family and I think he’s a hot topic for Americans, young and old, regardless of race.

    My hope is that he can unite Americans and be that positive change that he promises to be.

    So like you and Natasha before me, I too support Barck Obama from a far.

  3. Dido

  4. […] (I also think his use of social media is revolutionary). […]


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