First of all, let me say that I never write on politics. I just never have. The topic is obviously very important and interesting, but it just doesn’t interest me and fire me up like some of my friends and family. Second, I don’t consider myself an expert on politics. I watch the news, read a lot, follow the candidates to a degree, but not to the extent that many of you. Third, these are just some observations that I have made and have talked to others about. I’m totally open to you then disagreeing/agreeing, debating me, showing me where I’m wrong/right.
But what I really want to do is just point out a couple of things that I have noticed recently. I wasn’t sure if I was on/off base, until I started talking to others, and they totally agreed. So I realize I’m not alone in these observations then.
Here is what I’m trying to point out basically: I think many of the main reasons that Barack is so popular among people have nothing to do with politics, his policy, his experience, etc. That may be shocking to many of you, but I don’t think it should be. Hence why these are non-political thoughts.
So over the next week I’m just going to point out several reasons why. Nothing extensive. Not lots of research on this. Just some observations. Also, I’m just looking specifically at my generation (I’m 33 yrs. old) and younger generations since I have more experience in working with them and more opportunities to observe them and be in conversation with them.
Therefore, I would be curious of your thoughts, and would appreciate your interaction.
Reason #1: Openness
This is one of the biggest and most important reasons I believe. First, let’s all agree that the political machine and campaigns of all the candidates can spin anything, in anyway that they want. So though many will blame the media’s spin on why candidates appear one way or the other…let’s just admit that Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama are all quite adept at the political game. And that what we may see is not the true reality. So let’s all agree there.
Of all the candidates Barack appears to be the most open. And by open I mean lots of things. He appears more transparent in his debates and speeches. More vulnerable. When attacked, he seems to admit to making mistakes. No matter if you agree with him or not, you don’t get the impression that he’s in the back room shredding documents. This sets him apart from the suscpiciousness that the “old guard” and its candidates bring to the table.
His campaign is also seen as a more “open system” He was really one of the first to be all over Facebook with groups and interactive forums, and Facebook is very much an open system, allowing input and feedback by others. His place on Facebook and MySpace, etc, endeared him to a generation that has felt disengaged from politics as a whole.
And have you seen his website? Wow! He just gets it in ways that other candidates don’t get. He and his campaign understand the importance of the web and social networking in making people feel connected and important. His web presence presents a much more open image than the others (I know Clinton and McCain have websites also…but not to the same degree), and that speaks to younger generations in some powerful ways.
I have experienced the power of this openness in our own ministry. Facebook for example (which I will point out in my upcoming chapter in The New Media Frontier in Sept.) is an open, non-hierarchical network that allows input from others without having to go through the traditional “gate keepers”, etc. This is very important, and I think Barack’s savvy online has allowed younger generations to look at politics in a different way, and get involved without having to go through the traditional “old guard” in politics.
Barack’s openness signifies to many a new way of doing politics and allowing those who have felt excluded to be a part of the process, no matter how small or how big the contribution is. Whether or not a forum on Facebook has a great impact is not the point. The point is that people feel empowered, especially at a grassroots level. And that is what online social networking sites are all about. They are about disabling the traditional systems of “closed systems” and “gatekeepers”, and about giving voice to communities of people. It is a collaborative effort that has excited new generations.
And if you are going to capture the younger generations, then you have to understand this view. I work in a church, and so I understand it better from a church perspective….and churches that don’t understand that younger generations are now bypassing the traditional “gatekeepers” and “red tape” of the church, are going to be in a lot of trouble. It’s happening in Church, and it’s happening in politics and it’s going to pervade other areas of life as well.
This generation (my generation and younger) wants transparency to such an extent that it may not comfortable to some generations. With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Google, etc. people’s lives are more of an open book than before, and Barack and his campaign seem to understand this.