Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, CNN, and other mainstream sites are what people think of when they want to sum up the world-wide web and what it is used for. The only problem with that conclusion is that it is ignorant to what the internet has become. An example of this is brought out by the question: how much was the Presidential election of 2008 decided by the internet? Well, the answer may be shocking, because the trend that Howard Dean started in 2004, using the internet as tool to jumpstart his campaign, has set the standard for future elections like this one.
In Henry Jenkins’ article, “Photoshop for Democracy,” he says, “The 2004 campaign was a period of innovation and experimentation in the new use of media technologies and popular culture based strategies.” Jenkins goes on to say that these new strategies on the internet became integral in the 2004 election, because the plan to draw out new voters, was executed. This new culture set the standard for campaigns moving forward, and made a large impact in the most recent Presidential election. Without this new era it is likely history would not have been made in the 2008 election.
Barack Obama made history as the first African American President of the United States in 2008, but if it wasn’t for the help of the newly discovered virtual politics he may not have even won the primary. More directly if it wasn’t for a pioneer like Howard Dean who paved in a way Jenkins describes, “Dean developed his initial following via the internet that brought him to visibility in broadcast and mass market media.” Obama’s campaign took some great notes on Dean’s campaign because that is exactly what they had in mind. Obama was able to organize his followers timelessly online and also gathered new support through free advertising provided on YouTube. Another tool that Obama’s campaign used to its advantage that I witnessed firsthand was they took over Facebook effectively. Their page on this social media juggernaut was so advanced that someone could simply enter their street address on this page and it would show them their polling location and provide directions to it. Obama’s effectiveness on these different sites also fit his motto “Change” perfectly, because it gave the idea that the President was more up on technology directly connecting with the youth, unlike his challenger John McCain. McCain was accused by Obama’s camp of being too “old” throughout the campaigning process. This argument was able to be looked at valid because of Obama’s stranglehold lead on the internet. However, Jenkins does say, “Candidates may build their base on the internet but they need television to win elections.”
This idea fit President Obama’s campaign perfectly; because of regardless of your political affiliation, there is no denying the man can deliver great speeches. These speeches were extremely important in keeping the support he had gained online. His confidence and public spark that coupled with his virtual presence were ultimately what propelled him to victory in the election. This election proved to be a great example of what the internet has become in the political world and the positive effects it can have for a campaign. Without the resources the internet provides, history may have never been made.