The New President
Last month’s Obama versus Romney debates were a real thriller. Ever since campaigning picked up and the debates and opinion polls started, everybody who was somebody said that this was going to be a close fight. But finally, that was not to be. While in 2008 Democrats bagged 365 seats against 173 by Republicans, Obama beat Republicans again with a 332-206 victory.
The first-term elections were basically more about using technology to seek donations, publicize the party’s and the candidate’s position on important and hot issues. And a bit on how to get involved in the campaign. Facebook and Twitter were actively being used to connect and communicate with voters.
The big concern or should I say the big point to ponder after the 2012 election is the use of IT in pushing people to move, and then influencing their decision making.
For instance, Obama’s campaign team was sending out test EDMs to a sample population as early as 2010, to check out which message, the one with just Obama’s photo or the one with Obama, Michelle and the daughters had more impact. The campaign managers had segregated the population across the country on the basis of religion, race, income groups, age, and so on, and very focused messages were tried out. Before every speech that either Obama or Michelle made, they would reach out (obviously through automatically generated mass mails) to voters, asking them to give the talking points. Even till the election day afternoon, emails and messages went out to voters urging them to vote if they had not done so far, and urging their friends and relatives to vote.
What happened was that a neck-to-neck kind of a race ended up in a big margin win for Obama. The opinion polls and debates were not suggesting that. In other words, just like people are pushed and attracted to buy cars and soaps, presidents are being sold. While this is a great use of technology, it might not be the best thing to happen while selecting the person who will lead your country. Obama is a great man, but was it more than just his track record and persuasion power? Was it his $100 mn IT machinery which led the voters to him. I think these are very important questions that we must seriously think over.
Not to forget that many of the social networking sites were often blasted with horrifying messages like “Mrs Obama says you will get cancer if you don’t vote for them”, or with pictures of Obama in a Nazi uniform, and another picture of him with a knife behind his back dressed as a Muslim. Political commentators now suggest that after the elections, the sensitivity and awareness on the issue of race and religion has gone up. Well, the results have shown that voters ignored all this, but the question remains...how will all this impact citizens’ relations in the future?