In our study of “Voter Participation” in the Elections Process, I was fascinated by the ways in which people respond to political campaigns. As suggested in our textbook, going to the polls is the most common way that individuals become involved in the election process. Voters can participate in elections in other ways either as an individual or through collective action. Individuals can participate by becoming informed, endorsing or financially supporting a candidate or party, or writing to an incumbent officeholder. However, in order to effect significant change in public policy, individuals must team up with other like-minded citizens to communicate a message. Networking at the grassroots level, being part of a community, and exchanging ideas with other citizens are fundamental to and enrich the democratic process.
During our class investigation of voter participation in elections, I was intrigued by the references to mobilizing new voters. In fact, according to John P. Frendreis, a Professor of Political Science at Loyola University in Chicago, jurisdictions that experience a close-knit sense of community and well-organized local party organizations historically have higher voter turnout. Often, the mission of local level party organizations is either to increase voter participation in a jurisdiction anticipated to vote “favorably” on issues of concern or to convince people to vote for a particular candidate or party. As suggested in a study by Ben Pimlott, the grassroots politics of local organizations can mobilize the swing votes that often determine the outcome of elections.
Based on this premise that jurisdictions with strong local-level party organizations have higher voting turnout, I was curious to examine the effect that such organizations had on the Presidential campaign in 2008. From a historical perspective, this election was one of the most interesting, arguably the first where new information technologies became embedded in the process. Therefore, it would be important to examine how this campaign was strategically conducted.
In his article, “How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power,” David Carr explains how President Obama began his revolutionary campaign with a novel strategy to promote his label. This article analyzes President Obama’s successful use of technology not only in his campaign, but also in his subsequent Presidency. By using the new digital tools, the Presidency became more transparent allowing the government to run more effectively and with a new level of intimacy with respect to the individual citizen. Barack Obama and his administration communicate directly and instantaneously to the nation using Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. The significance and power of these entities were poorly understood concepts by the seasoned and well-positioned Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as the Republican challenger and traditional old school politician, John McCain.
During Senator Obama’s campaign for President, he was able to communicate to the nation on a mass scale, raise campaign funds, and advertise his run for the White House at a much lower cost. Relative to the traditional political techniques that include voter lists, phone banks, and direct mail, the incorporation of Internet technology into politics levels the playing field and makes it easier for a candidate to campaign. Money and the traditional forms of social influence that it can buy are diminished in importance, and the electoral system becomes more Democratic and more just. The networking of citizens can now occur from one’s laptop at the cost of the monthly Internet service, rather than a country club membership.
Information is power, and databases allow politicians to more clearly understand the constituency they are representing. The political and election processes have evolved again, as they have several times in American history as the result of a fundamental change in the technological framework of information and communication.
Click here for a link to another great Obama Campaign video on Youtube.
Experience with Current Event:
As a student, our study of government has been a great success, and here is proof. As I go about my daily life, I am able to apply and relate course material to current events that I am confronted with in newspapers, on television and on the internet. For example, as I drove to school on April 12, 2012, I was listening to the Morning Edition of National Public Radio and I heard some rather peculiar words from the reporter. Carrie Johnson, a NPR news reporter, was talking about “campaign funds.” Before taking my government course, I would have preferred to be entertained by the banter of “Bo and Jim.”
In Carrie Johnson’s report, she updates her NPR radio audience about the upcoming trial of Senator John Edwards. The court case is questioning John Edward’s usage of “campaign funds” that were donated to him by two long-time supporters. Sen. Edwards, a Democrat representing North Carolina, is fighting campaign finance felony charges. He allegedly accepted and failed to report over $1 million that he used to support the lavish lifestyle of his mistress and former campaign worker, Rielle Hunter, with whom he an illegitimate child. Apparently, the money was not assigned to any specific campaign expense. Senator John Edwards (D) received money from two donors who will not face criminal charges in the trial: Fred Baron, a trial lawyer, is dead and Rachel Mellon, who considered Edwards as a “romantic hero,” is 101 years old and therefore is not expected to testify.
Is Senator John Edwards guilty of criminal charges? Should he face prison time for the illegal usage of Presidential campaign funds, locking him up for up to 30 years? Is he really a danger to society?
Connection to Gov:
In our government class, we discussed and explored the role of money in elections. We read articles that express contradicting viewpoints about the Constitutionality of donations and their relationship to protecting freedom of speech versus the corruption that money can cause when it buys influence, undermining the fundamental philosophy of democracy.
The role of money in politics is controversial issue that is hotly debated and that people will never agree on. Some see the donation of money as a form of speech or political expression, while others see money as a corrupting force that suppresses the voice of the common people, who can not afford to buy influence.Government class has helped me see that the issues of the world are not clear cut, or even black and white. There are always struggles between competing interests and different perspectives. But, our democratic system provides a level playing field, or at least a system of rules in which differing viewpoints can compete for the favor of the public in open forum. I have learned from government class and from following current events that the workings of government are held to a high standard of accountability, public opinion. This is much better than the opinion of one man, such as dictators like Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro or Adolf Hitler.