Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Obama's system - an opportunity for the Lib Dems?

The real life, non digital source of info that is Mr S Carr, sent me this. It’s a link to a Next Great Thing post on Barack Obama’s nomination campaign.

It picks out what it sees as the highlights of Obama’s approach to politics and fund raising including tactics such as mybarackobama.com and his use of existing social networking sites. It then goes on to contrast this approach with that of John McCain (JohnMcCain.com) which has just revamped its website and is offering McCain branded water bottles.

To me this is a great political example of one candidate who gets the distributed identity point, and one who clearly does not. And points interestingly to a very real division between the connected (those voters who are absorbing digital) and the merely online (those who are not fully online, or whose offline habits are not reflected in their online usage).
And the obvious demonstration of this is on the one hand Obama’s use of a broad section of sites, pages and technologies and on the other McCain’s development of a website.

To be fair I’m sure McCain will evolve… (maybe).

I think it gets really interesting when you try to map this approach on to the UK political arena… because it doesn’t seem to work.


The American model elects a president. The UK system elects a party.

Parties are slower ships to turn than individuals.
People’s beliefs and understandings of parties hold over time.
Which is why the Conservatives went to town on Cameron first… the halo effect of a leader’s personality can influence a party positively and rapidly.

In the UK neither of the main party’s could adopt an Obama style system with any credibility.
It would be like watching your dad at a disco.
Both blue and red have too defined personalities within the British societies psyche.

The Libdems on the other hand could...
It is not inconceivable for them to set up a social network allowing real people to have a say. Importantly for them it could provide a funding basis too… which is something they lack over the two other main parties.

The other route… might be to set up a movement independent of the main parties.
For me this is could lead to extremism. The benefit of Obama’s route is that he has combined leadership with social input.

Look at Myfootballclub as an example.

As you might expect, it’s a football club that’s owned and run by on online community. All policies, transfer decisions etc are made by the network.
Interestingly very soon after it kicked off it was recognised by the members that the manager needed to be able to make decisions. He’s closer to the team and is a leader.

Maybe this model is the new direction British Politics has been looking for, for a while.

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