Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election confirms the power of the internet and good communications as well as the power of money in politics. After all, according to the New York Times, Obama
- Raised $640 million in his election campaign
- Spent more on advertising — $280 million – than John McCain managed to raise in his entire campaign: $251 million
- Spent more than the combined total spent by President Bush and Senator John Kerry in 2004, according to Federal Election Commission records
But more important is how he raised that money and reached out to the voters.
- He had the best website, helped by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes and raised millions online.
- He understood the importance of grassroots networks and political activism, having worked as a community organiser. He understood the importance of caucuses in American politics.
- He is also a great communicator. His victory shows the power of the written word and the spoken word in politics.
It also shows once again the importance of personality and charisma. For though both John McCain and Hillary Clinton appealed to millions of voters, Obama connected more with the young, the African-Americans, the liberals – non-mainstream voters.
Obama’s victory shows the importance of the young voters and those who feel they are not getting a fair deal. It is not enough to appeal to the mainstream.
Of course, the economic mess also contributed to his victory. McCain almost pulled level with him in the opinion polls, but then came the Wall Street meltdown and McCain never recovered after that. He was punished for the economic problems that his fellow Republican President Bush failed to solve.
But Obama did run a brilliant campaign and his success has important implications for other countries.
What’s valued around the world
The fact that he was the overwhelming favourite of people around the world shows people everywhere value
- Good communications
- Technological savvy
It is no longer enough to have a proven record and solid credentials. John McCain is a war hero with a long record of public service. Hillary Clinton could cite the experience of her husband, President Bill Clinton.
Voters look for something more. And the young, of course, respond to exciting candidates.
Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries by campaigning as the agent of change. “Change we can believe in,” was his slogan.
The promise of change, the exhortation to believe and the reaching out to voters: those were the key features of the Obama campaign. He was not campaigning as a superman or an overachiever who had all the answers to the problems. As his website says:
“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington… I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
That was his appeal to voters. And it worked.