The presidential election campaign of Barack Obama was declared as the first Internet Campaign and in the American media there was talk of a transformation of the traditional
campaigning. Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidature in january 2008 not at a press conference but on the internet. “The 2008 campaign will be the first truly 21st Century presidential race.” wrote Arianna Huffington at The Huffington Post on August 02 in 2007.
It is the same in politics as it is in every other part of our society: The internet becomes more and more important. Even the reasons are the same, the internet provides numerous considerable advantages which must not be wasted. Modern politicians from many countries have realized this and try to use the internet for their activities.
The main aspect which makes the internet the number one medium of our society is its function as a communication platform. The amount of data and information available on the internet grows every day. Today, people use the internet not just to find information but to create and publish information themselves.
Besides that, today the internet provides possibilities to publish videos, photos and even your own private thoughts and more and more people use that. In a way the internet has become more and more personal and it is like a huge bulletin board for everyone's own ideas. That is the advantage for modern politics, the internet provides the opportunity to communicate with people in a more personal way (than for example TV would do).
There are two very good examples for people who have used all that with great success.
Howard Dean ran unsuccessfully for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, nevertheless he is considered to be a pioneer of campaigning on the internet and especially political fundraising via the Internet. However, a perfect example is the election campaign of Barack Obama, whose online campaign applied a new standard.
Nobody can deny that the internet is connected to nearly every part of modern society. Since more and more people use the internet frequently and a company like Google becomes more and more powerful, the internet has to play an important role in politics. This paper covers one aspect of this connection.
By discussing the advantages of the internet as a communication platform, the advantages of the internet for an election campaign, and the examples of Howard Dean and Barack Obama this paper will prove that the internet is the key to win a presidential election campaign these days.
2. The Internet as a Communication Platform
First of all, there are numerous features of the internet which make it the most perfect communication platform and with this an excellent instrument for politics. Communication is one of the most important aspects of politics, especially when it comes to election campaigns. When politicans want to win an election they have to make sure to reach as many people as they can with their election program.
This can of course only be accomplished through the media. In the past, politicians used newspapers and flyer to spread their messages. Later, radio and television were added. The new medium of the 21st century is the internet and it had a much bigger impact than radio and tv. The main reason for this is maybe that it is more unbounded than radio and tv. Instead of TV or radio shows with certain time limits, there are websites which are available as long as the respective server is online.
This enables a fast and unlimited communication around the clock. People do not have to wait for a certain TV show to get a particular information, they can search for the information whenever they want. Additionally, the information they find can also lead to another information and so on. This leads to another great advantage:
The internet is in a way the center or node of all media. Everything which can be seen on TV, read in a newspaper, or heard on the radio can also be found on the internet. In some cases a TV or radio show is even based on information which was created and/or found on the internet before. The internet has in a way developed into the first contact point for news and information.
Additionally, the cost to use the internet is comparatively low considering how much the internet offers. The main part of the cost to use the internet is the computer which yet has not to be an expensive one. Someone who does not have a computer (or an internet connection) still has the opportunity to visit an internet café. Basically, everyone (in a modern country) has the possibility to use the internet.
Another advantage of the internet compared to radio or television is that information can be transferred in more than one direction. There is not just a producer and a consumer but the consumer can become a producer itself. A person who reads any news or information can immediately comment it more or less directly or the person can redirect the information to another person. In other words, it is a You-to-them, Them-to-them, and Them-to-you information transfer on the internet.
This feature creates another advantage. Any news which comes up in the media becomes widespread in a fast and direct way through the internet. An excellent example for this is the social network Twitter. For example, the Los Angeles Fire Department used this service to spread news about the forest fires in South California in 2007.
Further, the fast information transfer through the internet makes it possible that many people who have a certain opinion towards a particular issue can create a communication platform to discuss that issue on the internet. They do not have to meet up face to face and all people no matter how many they are can come together on one place - their virtual community.
3. Advantages for an Election Campaign
All these features of the internet as a communication platform lead to further advantages of the internet for an election campaign. Traditional media like radio, newspapers or television can never provide these advantages. By that, every politician who does not use the internet for a campaign wastes great potential.
The main aspect of the online part of an election campaign is of course the own website of the politician. It is like the central point of all activities on the internet. The politician can post news or his election program here and he can react to everything which was said about him in the media. Besides this, on http://my.barackobama.com for example, people could sign up at the website and immediately start to support Barack Obama with his election campaign.
One big advantage the internet provides for an election campaign is the possibility of new fundraising strategies. Since online payment is so easy and becomes safer and safer through services like Paypal, politicians can offer their supporter the opportunity to donate small or big amounts fast and easy. With this, great fund can be raised through many small online payments. Howard Dean and Barack Obama are excellent examples for this strategy.