Assuming he wins, I think Barack Obama will be remembered for, among other things, being the first presidential candidate to successfully use the internet to organise his campaign and win the White House. We saw an early version of this with Howard Dean in 2004 but he never made it past the Democratic primaries. From Fight the Smears to the iPhone application, he’s re-written the rules for any future successful politicians.
That said, TV is still the most important medium and has been since the days of JFK. Last night, Obama aired his informercial, which I only watched on YouTube this morning. I was undecided before but after seeing this, I am totally getting a Shamwow. Like his acceptance speech at Inesco Field in Denver, the special provided the stunning visuals that act as a kind of shorthand to communicate the idea among his supporters that the US must now turn a corner.
So he certainly knows how to use TV to communicate his ideas (and not using public campaign financing doesn’t hurt, either). Still, I can’t help but wonder if, on a personal level, Obama doesn’t see TV as having as much relevance as it used to. Yesterday during a speech, he tried to make a joke about Sanford and Son and ended up confusing it with the Jeffersons. He also names M*A*S*H as his favourite show.
This suggests not only that he is unfamiliar with 30 year-old Norman Lear produced African-American-themed sit-coms, but that he hasn’t watched much TV since he was a teenager. Does he even have a TV in his house? Oh, and John MCain and I like a lot of the same shows.
Obama has said that families need to turn off the TVs once in a while to spend more time together. This is good advice but I suspect something else at work. I think it’s fair to say that the foundation of his support comes from the internet. Obama is also on record as a Trekkie (and please, please let his Secret Service nickname be “Tuvok”). Star Trek has taught us that by 2040, television will have lost its significance. It’s already started with people shifting to podcasts, and over the next 32 years, we’re going to watch even less television. But then again, with one or two broadcasters, like CanWest and CTV globemedia, rerunning the same damn shows over several different cable stations, why would we?
I think this fact is not lost on him and he’s already there, in the future, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with him.