One of the most interesting lessons we had in the Social Media and Politics class at Stanford was related to the Obama campaign. And the conclusion is clear: his case can not be copied in continental Europe. There will never be an Obama in countries like Germany, France or Spain, because our systems are too different.
So this is what made it possible in the US:
1. There are very weak party organizations. In fact, even though the Democratic elites supported Hillary Clinton, Obama won the primaries.
2. There are independent candidates and campaigns, which can not happen in Europe, where the political elites (people who work for the parties) control mostly everything, including who becomes the candidate.
3. Electoral politics is professionalized in the US. In fact, a group of political consultants have been helping candidates for many years. Mainly with technical practices relating to broadcast media and, lately, to new media. Obama got a great group of independent e-politics consultants to help him.
4. Fundraising can be done independently, without the mediation of political parties. This is one of the most important things that Obama got during his campaign, specially thanks to the Internet, where he raised several million dollars. In Europe, as we all know, money comes originally from bank loans, which gives a bigger chance to the main political parties.
5. The importance of media is higher in the US, because public opinion plays a bigger role. This has been taken to new media.
6. Huge data bases were used in the elections to track which people should be called to move them to vote in certain states. This would not have been possible in Europe, where privacy laws are very restrictive.
7. In the US lots of vounteers are needed to help during the long campaigns. It’s not so easy to mobilize people in Europe, where politics does not have a good image.8. Last but not least. Before Obama there was Howard Dean, who used more or less the same tools but failed to become the Democratic candidate in 2004. Social networks, blogs and meetup were already there. Besides, Dean’s 5 main campaign advisors created a company, Blue State Digital, after 2004. This company built MyBarackObama.com and one of its founders is Joe Rospars, New Media Director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President. They also built some online tools for civic action and social networks as Democracy for America.
This is a great video that shows how relevant Obama is in Silicon Valley: