On November 4, 2008 when the residents America voted for their first black leader to the uppermost office in the land, the political temperature of the nation experienced a significant historical transformation. This was a major revolution for a nation that for a long time there have been racial segregation and slavery. For Barack Obama, he clearly realized that since the presidential election of 2000, there have been significant changes in every facet of the life of Americans due to new technology and innovation. In addition, he understood that this technology advancement had transformed the dynamics and power of politics of America. He found this as a fertile ground to base his campaign for the presidency. Moreover, he was able to transform the established norms of America’s presidential campaigns by securing the 2008 Democratic nomination. His major strategy was the integration of social networking and information technology.
Through this technique, he was able to capture citizen’s involvement in his campaigns by forming 8,000 online affinity groups, enrolling 750,000 volunteers, and organizing 30,000 occasions. This strategy was also able to mobilize fundraising for the campaigns in which the team raised over $200 million. However, it was not only the social networking that helped to boost the campaign, he employed other strategies to win the favor of the majority. This paper seeks to analyze the reasons why his campaign was very successful. It will provide a brief introduction of how Obama rose to politics as well as introduce the campaign strategies utilized. It will further describe these successful strategies in detail and offer a conclusion majorly based on personal opinion.
Mr. Obama’s rise in to politics started in 1996 when he contested for an Illinois state senate seat in Chicago. His team was able to challenge the nomination appeals of three major party competitors who included the experienced and famous politician of the south, Alice Palmer. Through this triumph, he was able to convince the Americans that he had the winning mentality and was not to accept any intimidation. A contentious scheme emptied his way to voted office even though he conformed to party regulations. This gave him a lot of strength and confidence and in 1999; he tried his luck in the national politics. He tried to remove Bobby Rush from his seat as Chicago congressional delegate. In this contest, he lost severely and people depicted him as an exclusive stranger. This gave him a lot of experience and he realized that he should play his game well and organize his strategies before sighting a higher seat (Sherwell, 2008).
The campaign of Obama was very impressive such that it looked like a phenomenon that had taken at least 10 years to develop to an instant idea. In the 1980s, Obama was working as a community coordinator with the “Developing Communities Project” in Chicago’s South Side. Since this time, he was able to develop and harness skills in community mobilization and society involvement, which greatly helped him to administer his campaign strategies. The victorious strategy of Obama centered on “The Three Ms”: message, money and mobilization. Each of these aspects promoted the other through a virtuous cycle, which made the campaign to transverse all comers of the nation (Graff, 2009).
His message of change and his speechifying skills stimulated the interests of Democratic voters following two terms of President George W Bush. He outsmarted the Clintons by centering on simple approaches for instance raising funds online through millions of petite donors. The approaches that he used demonstrated what he went through in life. These personal experiences reflected the aggressive passages of Columbia and Harvard to the rough streets of Chicago's South Side. Here, he struggled through challenges as a youthful community advocate, then proceeded to strengthen his confidence as a sturdy political operator (Sherwell, 2008).
It is evident that there are numerous reasons that justify Obama’s extraordinary win in the 2008 elections. However, one general strand that fastens together all these strategies was the spirit of change. In the eyes of many, this would seem as a simple word with the mere intention of luring voters in a ravenous political foundation. In reality, the actual change that enabled Obama’s election was in the number of voters that turned out for the elections encompassing all generations in global geo-political patterns, and in his character of a victorious candidate. All these factors indicate that the change was not only concerned in winning the support of the majority. This change was a major approach that facilitated Obama to succeed over Senator John McCain (Alex-Assensoh, 2008).
Obama’s organizational approach mingled the use of records files to aim cautiously at possible supporters, conservative door-to-door electioneering, and web-based signing up of volunteers. All these approaches reflected the strategies that Bush used in 2002 and had worked for him. Moreover, Obama utilized an outstanding fundraising procedure, which was very effective. This operation relied heavily on web-implored contributions and it further displayed examples discovered from the Bush campaign. Obama was the first key party aspirant to decline public finances for the general election campaign, as he was successful in mobilizing small contributions (Milkis & Rhodes, 2009).
Campaign Strategies in general
The Obama team utilized winning approaches from the party nominations to presidential campaigns. Due to this, they were able to attain more delegates based on enhanced inspiration, improved understanding of the regulations, enhanced fundraising and better organisation (Sherwell, 2008). Obama utilized his message skills and his compelling individual narrative to win majority supporters. In addition, the timing of the politics was suitable since they were at a time when the message of change was inevitable and very convincing. Consequently, the candidacy of Obama became a nationwide association that was able to mobilize masses among the population least considered to have a voice in elections. This mobilization targeted the young population and the generation that was new to media technology (Norquay, 2008).
During the 2000-2006 election cycles, Bush and the Republican Party pioneered the “national machine” strategy, which Obama sought to enhance and utilize it fully for maximum benefits. The Obama campaign embarked on web-based network to recruit million of supporters. Once the team obtained supporters’ information, the team utilized contemporary communications devices to persuade supporters to invite friends and relatives, provoke campaign devotees, elucidate the candidate’s positions and notify activists in case of fundraisers, rallies and other campaign events (Milkis & Rhodes, 2009). Obama campaign utilized different strategies including, use of slogan and lobbying, use of media and technology, his winning speeches, proper marketing strategies and targeting the proper groups of people. Moreover, he used racial cohesion, grassroots campaigning, fundraising strategy and proper timing. Of all these strategies however, the media and technology was the most successful.
Use of the Slogan “Yes We Can”
In his campaigns, Obama dedicated the bulk of his speeches, media messages; writings on billboards and placards to the slogan “Yes We Can.” This slogan, which was the core message of the whole of the campaign, prompted definite cultural relationships for diverse sections of the population. Moreover, he was able to change the slogan into a narrative, which appealed to diverse constituencies. The first time when Obama used the slogan in his presidential campaign was ironical to many. This is because it was in a speech he gave on 8 January 2008, following his loss of the New Hampshire primary election to his opponent Hillary Clinton. This speech was able to draw a lot of attention from the media and it’s became the order of the then presidential elections. This is because split-screen music video that was very striking aired it several times. To strengthen this, there were famous multi-ethnic youthful actors and performers who regularly mentioned Obama’s speech frequently. This slogan by Obama was able to offer a uniting, motivating and ultimately convincing allegory, which gave Americans the hope of conquering in unison the troubles, which faced them (Foxlee, 2009).
The Media and Technology
Obama’s campaign utilized the media and new technology in a very great way. Actually, it was the major strategy utilized to win a majority of voters. The internet was very critical for social networking while T.V channel, videos and mobile phones sent the appropriate messages to win the favor of voters. Graff (2009) indicate that the Obama campaign covered nearly all areas supporting the campaign with text messages, the campaign website, emails, social networking sites, YouTube and blogs.
The campaign had a Barack TV website and connected to the campaign’s YouTube site. This TV website synchronized various video clips displayed outstandingly in digital campaign materials. By November 2008, there were over 1,700 videos uploaded on Barack TV. These videos were remarkable for their multiplicity of subjects and outreach to particular interest groups and for their absolute number. In addition, these videos were very different from preceding campaigns in various ways. For instance, they highlighted stories of campaign devotees, volunteers and the contestant, which was not the case for previous campaigns. In regard with this, many videos generated by the Obama campaign were majorly regarding campaign devotees.
For instance, a video illustrated African American students in the Bronx who aired their views concerning the candidacy of Obama. Moreover, videos that majorly concentrated on the candidate himself, had aspects of the supporters. For instance, there were videos that featured Obama’s speech, which started with figures of supporters in the multitudes and often cut to them paying attention to the speeches. Consequently, many supporters had viewed the Obama campaign videos on YouTube over 18 million times by November 3, 2008 (Abroms & Lefebvre, 2009).
All the staff concerned with the Obama campaign starting from the manager to the grassroots organizers realized that the internet was very vital for every stage of the campaign. This top-down realization and awareness by the campaign staff, made it possible for the strategy to attract a wide range of supporters. Immediately after Obama proclaimed that he would run for the presidency in February 2007, the campaign’s internet team ensured that there was a story to cast, during every Monday. This team included the grassroots staff, Web team-merchants, new media team, and online media team (Graff, 2009). The internet was accessible by nearly all people even in diverse geographical regions.
This eliminated the probability of geography as an obstacle to political battle across a huge nation. Using inventories offered by Obama centers, the concealed army would extend with numerous personal messages and calls, traversing from one state to another through the long primary season. The internet also made sure that the campaign team reached all the targeted areas and people. This means that while the candidate was campaigning in one area, the other team was organizing the ground in another place for the coming encounter. This also ensured that when the candidate emerged for the subsequent state campaign, there was a practical campaign squad waiting for him, being very ready and organized (Norquay, 2008).
In the “My Barack Obama site,” supporters would communicate their sentiments, both optimistic and pessimistic, concerning the campaign and the candidate, organize events, solicit funds with goal-setting devices, and converse with other supporters (Abroms & Lefebvre, 2009). The internet also offered aspects that allowed supporters produce lists of indifferent voters to call from home and generate canvas inventories to knock on doors, and create their own fundraising objectives among their relatives and friends (Graff, 2009). In addition to using the internet, the campaign also utilized the mobile campaigning strategy. In August 2008, the campaign team founded Obama Mobile, an accessible application for iPhone and Blackberries. With this application, there were messages sent to clients according to their features and locality. Text messages sent to devotees comprised appeals for participation in addition to standard updates on the campaign (Abroms & Lefebvre, 2009).
In his triumph speech of 4 November 2008, Obama employed interdiscursivity and Intertextuality. Obama mainly used the oratory styles used by Abraham Lincoln and the Founding Fathers and those used by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. In addition, Obama speeches used clear and well-understood references. The white legend of an America established in freedom and equality with the black narrative of a journey towards equality and freedom intertwined well for Obama. By this, Obama gave Americans a general future that linked with their different pasts by credibly proposing a joining metanarrative that personified a comprehensive rewriting of the American story and the American Dream (Foxlee, 2009).
During Obama’s campaign, marketing skills played an important role, mainly in branding, targeting, and grassroots promotion. The marketing skills helped Obama to portray himself as the channel of change in three ways. He first built a wider and realigned union of the electorate across party lines and other prior divisions through sophisticated targeting. Secondly, his branding of change not only portrayed his reformist principles and unfailing belief in responsible and positive government, but also stressed his distinctiveness as a Washington foreigner and/or would-be first African-American president. His grassroots promotion and strategic public relations lastly, represented a radical move in the style of presidential authority, from strict, secretive, and interactive bottom-up and top-down to transparent approach (Hirabayashi, 2009).
Targeting the winning group and racial cohesion
During the Democratic primaries, Obama was able to assemble effectively part of the Democratic voters who backed Hillary Clinton incorporating women, the financially vulnerable, Hispanic, and even the Catholics (Hirabayashi, 2009). His team was also able to mobilize racial-minority communities and immigrant using internet-based technology, house-to-house meetings, registration drives, and, most of all, the convergence of existing social networks as a point of entry to the communities. In addition, the young people were active in Obama’s campaign. Obama spoke to them as equivalents, making them believe that they could bring about a distinction, and motivating them to do the impossible.
They were partners in his campaign holding an equal chance in the result. Obama’s natural ability to comprehend all races because of his black, white and Asian background made him focus on themes of hope and bi-partisanship. Consequently, he resisted and stood firm against the customary approach of open disapproval and race baiting. He however chose to focus on opportunity, enthusiasm, hope, and believed in the promise that is natural in the American dream. Obama therefore, symbolized the spirit of change in terms of racial politics and a change in the negative mood of American politics (Alex-Assensoh, 2008).
Grassroots campaigning and fund raising
Mobilizing the online supporters to take part in precinct walking, door-knocking, and registration drives strengthened Obama’s army. MyBarackObama.com further strengthened the grassroots efforts through social network sites with network members consenting to campaign in the regions they stood for. Voter mobilization certainly, was not a one-off effort on Election Day, but a stable system of communication during the primary and general election campaigns (Milkis & Rhodes, 2009). In American politics, grassroots campaigning has a long history however, Obama made several improvements, his campaign not only sought to allot key responsibilities to local teams that would encourage his followers voting experiences, but also promote and develop a broad range of professional and social networks (Alex-Assensoh, 2008). In the modern electoral history, Obama was the most successful political fundraiser having raised more than $600 million dollars during the campaign. Obama was able to spend more than $360 million dollars on media and $312 million on broadcast media alone. The mobilization efforts grew due to the availability of more than $3 million in per diem expenditures to grassroots volunteers (Milkis & Rhodes, 2009).
Barack Obama’s race to the white house was a historical hallmark in the lives of many Americans. Being the first Black president of the United States, he proved to the whole world that even those deemed as the minority, could rise to the highest level of leadership. His Campaign was very successful since he employed a new strategy that won the favor of the majority. He majorly utilized media and technology to strategize his campaigns, especially the use of internet. Moreover, he had excellent oratory skills, utilized good marketing strategies and was able to target the right group. In addition to this, he was able to raise enormous funds through his online fundraising, which helped him to carry out his campaigns well.
What made his campaign even more exclusive was how he mobilized the minority groups while his rivals concentrated on the majority. Obama realized that he had to reach out to the local people in their localities if he had to win the elections. By this, he was able to organize grassroots campaigns, which were very successful. This means that he mobilized many people from the grassroots and convinced them to vote for him. Above all, his striking strategy was his aspect as a change agent. He was able to convince Americans that he was the change that they wanted and this happened at a time when the nation wanted change inevitably.