The New Pres­i­dent

Voice&Data - - EDITORIAL -

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?

<[email protected]­ber­me­dia.co.in>

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