I’ve been feeling the chorus rise on the subject of whether a President Obama would follow through on his promise to institute a Chief Technology Officer at the cabinet level and who that person might be.
But the bigger question surrounds the fate this massive online social movement Obama has created.
His campaign has demonstrated the power of social media by involving so many people in the political process an undeniable legacy. The real litmus test of this legacy though is whether his netroots will die at the end of this campaign, or if it will live on through a cabinet level post or by other means.
I think the latter will occur. But, a LOT of questions remain unanswered. Questions such as:
- What will be the CTO’s role in the White House?
- Can a CTO make the White House more transparent?
- How much access will a CTO and the department give to the electorate?
David Lazer of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the Program on Networked Governance, asks the right questions. I highly recommend that people read his blog post for an insightful and brief analysis of how the powerful netroots movement Obama has created a lot of questions that loom the day after the election.
The potential impact on our democracy is both thrilling and troubling. On the thrilling side is the potential for a long standing increase in the engagement of people in politics– most notably, among the youngest voters, who have always been the least engaged. On the troubling side is the potential disintermediation of our (small r) republican institutions.
Essentially, Obama has used online social networks, as I’ve argued, to set the promise that peoples’ voices, dollars and energies are heard and make a difference. So far, that promise has been kept. The rewards have been manifold, least of which is the record-breaking September fundraising numbers.
But what happens, as David Lazer rightly points out, if in the White House Obama is not able to direct the energies and actions of this great network he has built? It very well could result in widespread disillusionment amongst new voters and young voters.
Clearly, Obama has built a movement. Let’s hope that he and his campaign understand and appreciate that this movement must live beyond this election – win or lose – for Obama’s legacy on American political life to be positive.
The question remains: How will Obama engage his network after Nov. 4th and will that network be engaged enought for them to be satisfied?