Sipping my cup of coffee this morning, I thought let’s see what the candidates have done to persuade me to stay on their website. Really, isn’t that the game—get people to stay on your site. Get people to explore and click around your site.

Well, it is no wonder why Obama is winning the Internet race. On the Obama site, I was greeted with a friendly video message that inspired me and made me think I am important in this world. I trusted him. Obama clearly understands the power of linking citizenship with emotions. He understands that people seek experiences that “make us think, that make us feel, that help us grow, and that enrich our lives in some way (Bedbury, 2002, p. 106).

Then when I goggled McCain, I clicked the link and I was brought to his home page—no friendly greeting. I thought maybe there is another link that has a friendly greeting, considering it would be very easy to upload a video, but no. The greeting I was given with McCain was a picture of conflict.

Read the Speech

Then, I thought do I really want to vote for someone who showcases conflict? No. I understand politics is conflict, but I want to partner with a leader that wants to build something better—a better America.  A good lesson for McCain’s site comes from Joe Trippi. He states, “The measure of a great company will be the way it builds great communities” (p. 219). McCain is not a company but he is a brand that should be focusing on how to build a great community instead of how to push a message.

This election, like most elections, is going to be about making an iconic brand—a brand that builds a relationship with Americans.  Bedbury (2002) says, “An effective brand makes relevant and compelling connections to deeply rooted human emotions or profound cultural forces” (p. 105). It seems Obama is doing this well, and McCain has yet to understand the emotions of the Internet culture.


Returning Power to the American People

A politician is framed either positively or negatively by reporters (Crouse, 997, p. 37). Televison and newspapers do not foster debate or dialogue, they were one way communication. This changed with the Internet. Power shifted from media conglomerates, and for the first time, people were able to “share their own opinions” (Graff, 2007, p. 24).

Howard Dean’s campaign took advantage of the Internet’s power and showed how the American people could use it to their advantage. Trippi, Dean’s Campaign manager, understood the power of connecting people on the Internet. He wanted to make Dean the Internet candidate. Trippi states, “When you looked at him [Howard Dean], you were going to think Internet and personal empowerment” (Tripp, 2004, p. 100). Eventually this message of empowerment was used at the end of Dean’s speeches. He would say, “You have the power!” (Trippi, p. 123).

Obama has used the lesson learned by Dean—empower the people. The headliner on all of Obama’s Internet pages asks people to believe in their ability to produce change. Obama’s headliner asks people not only believe in him but to believe in themselves.

The Average American Person Will Give to Your Campaign

The Dean campaign successfully ran an unprecedented online fundraising campaign. One of the tactics was to use a baseball bat as gauge to communicate to citizens the needs and successes.   Trippi (2004) wrote, “A baseball bat went up in the corner of the Dean for American Web site announcing our fund-raising goal of $4.5 million” (p. 130).

Dean Campaign Baseball Bat Example

Obama has successful utilized the Internet to communicate their financial goals and solicit funds from the American Citizen.  On June 30th they ran this campaign:

Citizens Come Together and Unite for a Cause

The Dean campaign took advantage of This Web site connected people within a geographical location with common interests to come together. By the end of the campaign Dean had over 190,000 members (Trippi, 2004, p. 86). The Dean members would meet once a month to talk about issues and to do whatever it took to grow the campaign.  For example, the Dean campaign launched a major letter writing campaign to get the message out in states like Iowa and New Hampshire (Teachout & Streeter, 2008, p. 118).

Dean Campaign Meet-up


Obama has developed an effective recruiting video that is placed on his website to encourage people to “belong to something larger than ourselves” (Bedbury, 2003, p. 92) and this begins when people come together in small groups. He asks people to unite for change and attend or host a house party.


Howard Dean’s campaign used the Internet to explore new ways to communicate with the American citizen, and Obama has learned from his discoveries.  Obama is empowering the citizens, fundraising, and uniting people to further his bid for the presidency.



Bedbury, S. (2003). A new brand world. Penguin Books: New York.

Teachout, Z. & Streeter, T. (2008). Mousepads, shoe leather, and hope.  Paradigm: Boulder, CO.

Trippi, J. (2004). The revolution will not be televised. Regan Books: New York.

After hours of trolling through the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) blogs, I began to think, it is true. People can organize online. However, people still need to be willing to do the hard work of being a citizen (Block, 2008). 

For example, citizens still need to sit next to child and help them learn to read. Rushkoff, in his blog Beyond Brand Obama, reminds Americans that we may want better schools and a better economy but those things do not just transpire from good legislation or a charismatic leader.

The change we want, like better communities, happen when people choose to live out these goals.  People need to come together as citizens. We cannot fallaciously believe that complacent online fans turn into citizen. Citizens are people that act it out in their communities.  Peter Block states, “Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care” (p. 65).  Technology is great at organizing and moving information but the true citizen is a person that takes action.

Howard Dean’s 2004 Democratic nomination campaign successfully used the Internet to empower people to become citizens. They did this by organizing people by using Dean never failed to say at the end of his speech “If you want to do something, go to” (Tripp, 2004, p. 98).  This was so successful that in Los Angeles one of the Meetup groups attendance soared to 200 people (p. 99). The Internet was organizing, moving information, and creating a place where people could become a citizen.

On the other hand, many of the 2004 candidates made the mistake of using “static web sites with no places for people to get involved” (Tripp, 2004, p. 101). These web sites just pushed information and expected the citizens to be complacent viewers. They did not want to engage in a dialogue and that came across to citizens as a lack of respect (p. 101).  This type of campaign does not encourage citizenship. Instead, it makes people feel like their only value to this country is their vote. 

Changing America won’t come from a new leader that can use technology. It will come from a leader that can use technology to inspire people to become a citizen and not just an online fan.


Block, P. (2008). Community: The structure of belonging. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Rushkoff, D. (2008, June 23). Beyond brand Obama. Personal Democracy Forum techPresident. Retrieved on June 27, 2008, from

Tripp, J. (2004). The revolution will not be televised. :New York: (more…)

Today, voters are expressing their citizenship in a transforming way. In the past, politicians saw voters as a group of people to market a campaign message to. Now, voters have shifted their role to creator, investor, and owner of the campaign messages–with the help of the Internet.

  •   A young man creates and sells hand-painted Obama tennis shoes—without Obama’s endorsement. This young man is no longer a consumer of the message he had become a creator and producer of Obama’s message.
  •  Obama has opened his doors to small donors and by doing so has given each donor an opportunity to be an investor in his campaign.

Creating and investing gives people a sense of ownership and belonging. In turn this leads to an open dialogue that focuses on reviving the American community. Voter generated content allows people the opportunity to be active participants in the political conversation.

To a moment and look at the following blogs of voter generated content–Obama tennis shoes, a music video about change, a t-shirt about Nadar, and art about voter logic.


This was taken from flickr account The author then continues to blog and expand her reasons behind each “finger” point. She had approxiamtely 17 reply blogs to this create photo. I found this to entertraining and informative.

This shirt says: Ralph Naders [sic] Helping to Elect Republicans since Bush 2000.

I found this t-shirt on I thought it was funny and poignant. Nadar is running again–taking votes away from the Obama. It gets the message across to independents to think critically about the unintended consequences of voting for a third party candidate. This same thing happened to Bush, Sr. when Ross Perot ran in the early 1990’s, and that helped Clinton win the election.

This is a video was written by Aron Leigh, a Nashville musician. This song was written before the 2008 election. Since, the musician is a strong supporter of Obama, he set out to make a video for Obama. THis video has only had 3,832 views. This song has become Italy for Obama official hymn.