President Obama: A Digital New Deal?

I’m very happy that Barack Obama won the presidency of the United States.

Seal of the President of the United StatesHere’s what I wonder. His campaign amassed millions of emails and addresses. Just his campaign for announcing Senator Biden as his Vice President brought in millions of SMS numbers. His campaign brought out millions of supporters to canvas for him, to put him in office.

I hope and wonder if he can continue to use those assets, that massive database. To keep the mailing list active as President of the United States, to text us when he needs to engage us. To drop a line on Twitter in addition to a White House Press Secretary. To podcast the radio address and blog from the Oval Office.

Most important, I wonder what an America would look like if the Obama campaign’s supporters become the Obama presidency’s volunteer corps, millions of Americans being directed and taking guidance from the White House as they were from campaign headquarters, cleaning up rivers instead of canvassing for votes, feeding the hungry at soup lines instead of voting lines.

I’m more than willing to continue hearing from President Obama on Twitter, on my phone, and in my inbox. I’m more than willing to join up and volunteer, too.

Perhaps this is the start, as Gradon Tripp put it, of a Digital New Deal. Count me in.

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  • http://www.camprunapup.com/ Katybeth

    I love the idea of American's staying involved….but I don't want to be lead by the White House. I will take leadership in my own life, home and family. Why wait for the White House to lead?
    What needs to show up now is accountability, I look forward to hearing from Obama, and hope he stays in touch…updating me on all that he has accomplished–walking the talk, and avoiding the blame game. I would like to join you in voting for him in 4 years.

  • http://flyovermarketing.com Kevin Behringer

    Christopher:

    While we fall on different sides of the political issue, I do agree with this post. I think that the demographics that helped elect Obama would also enjoy to connect with him and his administration through these channels.

    I also think that, given his campaign's understanding of these tools he has the opportunity to do something on par with the incredible feats he has already accomplished. He can involve people in politics and the political process like never before.

    Can you imagine if he…not a spokesperson, but Barack Obama himself Twittered at the end of the day? Or wrote a blog post at the end of the day? Imagine the engagement that people would feel with the President and the country!

    He obviously touched a nerve and found the keys to speak to people. I think that his great responsibility is to now continue that and he has an opportunity available to no President in history. With the tools now available, he has the chance to actually engage with people on a personal level. To break the barrier that so many feel to those in power.

    Whether he chooses to use that opportunity will remain to be seen, but he's certainly in the position to do it.

    Kevin

  • http://www.annhandley.com Ann Handley

    I totally agree. Given his ability to harness social media, the scenario you lay out is not far-fetched by any means.

  • http://www.ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Obama's technology roadmap included a strategy to enable Americans (or anyone, for that matter) to provide online feedback to any piece of non-emergency legislation up to two weeks before he has to sign it. That way, changes can be made on the fly.

    I'm looking forward to how that will be implemented.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    Unfortunately, it isn't quite that easy. Government ethics rules complicate these things. One cannot merely use the list interchangeably for politics and governing. Moreover, the rules influence considerably the types of communications that can be created and disseminated. The President has more flexibility than many officeholders, but even in the White House there are impediments like forcing senior staff to maintain at least two computers, cell phones, landlines, and pagers.

    Typically lists can go into the White House, but it is trickier to bring them out. Effectively it is a one-way street — meaning you couldn't add to it then use it again in 4 years.

    It's not quite that cut-and-dried, of course, but it gives you a sense of how much less flexibility one has in government to innovate.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    It sounds like what he was suggesting was accepting comments in the 10 days between when Congress passes legislation and the time when it becomes law if it is not vetoed. Realistically, this doesn't mean “changes can be made on the fly.” It simply means that people can argue for him to veto or sign it, as those are the president's options at that point (or he could ignore it and it would become law automatically after 10 days).

    That isn't to say it is a bad idea, it is just important to keep expectations reasonable. One of Obama's biggest challenges will be the monumental expectations that people have of him. He will almost certainly fail to meet them — even if through no fault of his own.

  • http://www.camprunapup.com/ Katybeth

    I love the idea of American's staying involved….but I don't want to be lead by the White House. I will take leadership in my own life, home and family. Why wait for the White House to lead?
    What needs to show up now is accountability, I look forward to hearing from Obama, and hope he stays in touch…updating me on all that he has accomplished–walking the talk, and avoiding the blame game. I would like to join you in voting for him in 4 years.

  • http://flyovermarketing.com Kevin Behringer

    Christopher:

    While we fall on different sides of the political issue, I do agree with this post. I think that the demographics that helped elect Obama would also enjoy to connect with him and his administration through these channels.

    I also think that, given his campaign's understanding of these tools he has the opportunity to do something on par with the incredible feats he has already accomplished. He can involve people in politics and the political process like never before.

    Can you imagine if he…not a spokesperson, but Barack Obama himself Twittered at the end of the day? Or wrote a blog post at the end of the day? Imagine the engagement that people would feel with the President and the country!

    He obviously touched a nerve and found the keys to speak to people. I think that his great responsibility is to now continue that and he has an opportunity available to no President in history. With the tools now available, he has the chance to actually engage with people on a personal level. To break the barrier that so many feel to those in power.

    Whether he chooses to use that opportunity will remain to be seen, but he's certainly in the position to do it.

    Kevin

  • http://www.annhandley.com Ann Handley

    I totally agree. Given his ability to harness social media, the scenario you lay out is not far-fetched by any means.

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Obama's technology roadmap included a strategy to enable Americans (or anyone, for that matter) to provide online feedback to any piece of non-emergency legislation up to two weeks before he has to sign it. That way, changes can be made on the fly.

    I'm looking forward to how that will be implemented.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    Unfortunately, it isn't quite that easy. Government ethics rules complicate these things. One cannot merely use the list interchangeably for politics and governing. Moreover, the rules influence considerably the types of communications that can be created and disseminated. The President has more flexibility than many officeholders, but even in the White House there are impediments like forcing senior staff to maintain at least two computers, cell phones, landlines, and pagers.

    Typically lists can go into the White House, but it is trickier to bring them out. Effectively it is a one-way street — meaning you couldn't add to it then use it again in 4 years.

    It's not quite that cut-and-dried, of course, but it gives you a sense of how much less flexibility one has in government to innovate.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    It sounds like what he was suggesting was accepting comments in the 10 days between when Congress passes legislation and the time when it becomes law if it is not vetoed. Realistically, this doesn't mean “changes can be made on the fly.” It simply means that people can argue for him to veto or sign it, as those are the president's options at that point (or he could ignore it and it would become law automatically after 10 days).

    That isn't to say it is a bad idea, it is just important to keep expectations reasonable. One of Obama's biggest challenges will be the monumental expectations that people have of him. He will almost certainly fail to meet them — even if through no fault of his own.

  • http://www.ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Chip, I've worked in state and local government and I've never heard of the ethics rules you cite. Maybe federal is different?

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    Ari, I have only worked in federal politics, but my general knowledge of the rules at state and local levels are that they too would preclude the use of government resources for political purposes.

    As a specific example, when I worked on Capitol Hill years ago, we had a database of people who had written letters the the Congressman I worked for. We could contact them for official purposes, but we could not then pass it on to the campaign during election season.

    Obama could likely transfer the list INTO the government, but he could not then take an updated list back out for the 2012 campaign. The more likely scenario is that the list will be maintained for political purposes. The Obama campaign and the DNC can advocate on behalf of the President's policies, so the communications can be unfettered (for the most part) and parallel what his Administration is saying. Of course, that would be a harder list to grow for non-partisan communications.

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Chip, I've worked in state and local government and I've never heard of the ethics rules you cite. Maybe federal is different?

  • http://jburg.typepad.com/future jon burg

    Love the dialogue. I posted some considerations yesterday over here – would love to get your thoughts – http://jburg.typepad.com/future/2008/11/where-v… – think it would be a real game changer if Obama citizen democratized the executive office.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    Ari, I have only worked in federal politics, but my general knowledge of the rules at state and local levels are that they too would preclude the use of government resources for political purposes.

    As a specific example, when I worked on Capitol Hill years ago, we had a database of people who had written letters the the Congressman I worked for. We could contact them for official purposes, but we could not then pass it on to the campaign during election season.

    Obama could likely transfer the list INTO the government, but he could not then take an updated list back out for the 2012 campaign. The more likely scenario is that the list will be maintained for political purposes. The Obama campaign and the DNC can advocate on behalf of the President's policies, so the communications can be unfettered (for the most part) and parallel what his Administration is saying. Of course, that would be a harder list to grow for non-partisan communications.

  • http://jburg.typepad.com/future jon burg

    Love the dialogue. I posted some considerations yesterday over here – would love to get your thoughts – http://jburg.typepad.com/future/2008/11/where-v… – think it would be a real game changer if Obama citizen democratized the executive office.

  • http://www.ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Oh, I agree with you on paperwork, Chip. Looking back, I see my concern was with your designation of dual cellphones, pagers, computers, etc for government staff. While any employing agency would typically provide a computer workstation, I've never heard of state cabinet secretaries or mayors receiving separate cellphones. Usually, the enterprise server is made accessible on the personal phone.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    At the White House, the party committees provide the extra pagers, computers, and cell phones. House and Senate members typically go to party offices to use those resources for campaign purposes, but that isn't particularly practical for presidential aides.

    I can't speak to how they handle it at state/local level, though even there they would need some way to make fundraising and other campaign calls, emails, etc. without using governmental resources. In most cases, I imagine they could simply go off-site, but I wouldn't be surprised to know many larger states/municipalities might have aides who carry political phones in addition to anything issued by the government.

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Oh, I agree with you on paperwork, Chip. Looking back, I see my concern was with your designation of dual cellphones, pagers, computers, etc for government staff. While any employing agency would typically provide a computer workstation, I've never heard of state cabinet secretaries or mayors receiving separate cellphones. Usually, the enterprise server is made accessible on the personal phone.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    At the White House, the party committees provide the extra pagers, computers, and cell phones. House and Senate members typically go to party offices to use those resources for campaign purposes, but that isn't particularly practical for presidential aides.

    I can't speak to how they handle it at state/local level, though even there they would need some way to make fundraising and other campaign calls, emails, etc. without using governmental resources. In most cases, I imagine they could simply go off-site, but I wouldn't be surprised to know many larger states/municipalities might have aides who carry political phones in addition to anything issued by the government.

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      Approve

      Sent from a mobile device – please excuse brevity & typos.

  • http://allcolortattoos.com Allan

    I totally agree.

  • http://allcolortattoos.com Allan

    I totally agree.

  • http://allcolortattoos.com Allan

    I totally agree.