The parking lot at the Bank Atlantic arena in Sunrise was full to the brim when I arrived – late, having also heard Barack Obama’s earlier foreign policy speech in downtown Miami. Other late arrivals were still streaming in. The lobbies were busy with concessions but missing something, I thought: lots of desks where people could sign up to volunteer for and donate to the Obama campaign.
Inside, the seats were full almost to the rafters and a thousand or so standing people milled around the stage. It’s a great crowd, but a missed opportunity to sign up 10,000 people, I thought.
Sorry, Larry. That was the old way of doing a campaign. Here’s how they did it instead, no paper to get lost, no rustling up scores of tables and banners and a vast staff to collect the names and enter them in a database.
Before the presumptive nominee arrived, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler and Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter warmed up the crowd, and Ritter, the chair of Obama’s campaign in Broward, got many in the crowd to volunteer without effort – the Web 2.0 way, the SMS way, via text messages.
“Everybody has a cell phone, right?” she cried.
“This is Florida, Broward, everybody has a cell phone, right?” she repeated. “Get it out. Text FL to 622-62.”
That’s how you volunteered: text FL to 622-62. Takes 20 seconds. I saw tons of people do it in the upper balcony where I sat, and they did it happily. A woman in front of me wasn’t yet a texter, so she had her husband do it on her mobile. And she laughed and enjoyed her enrollment in Obama’s volunteer corps.
That, to me, was the news of the event – something new. The speech was great, so was the one earlier to the Cuban American National Foundation in downtown Miami, but I had heard the ideas before. This smooth use of technology in front of 16,000 people (est. by the Sun-Sentinel) was confirmation of what we’re reading about the Obama campaign.
This has been in The Nation and also, more recently, in The Atlantic. We might have been more familiar with this if there had been a lot of campaigning in Florida, but no, we’re getting it late in the game. And it’s impressive.
Let me refer you to a summary in The Atlantic, June issue, where the author opines that Obama’s use of technology puts him in a league with other presidents who became powerful through new communications media. The examples were Andrew Jackson (improved printing presses and the use of the postal service), Abraham Lincoln (vigorous growth of newspapers), Franklin Roosevelt (radio chats), John Kennedy (television).
Now we’re in the Web age, and if we hadn’t had a Republican dolt for president for eight years (It’s on the internets, he ventured) we might be like some countries with a lot of public WiFI, or like Britain, with a Web address to petition the government.
“If Obama wins,” the article concludes, “and if he can harness the Web as a unifying force once the voting is done, he could be a powerful president indeed – the kind that might even deliver on some of the audacious promises that Obama the candidate has made.” It goes on to say that the Web could stall him, too, but I prefer to dwell on the delivering of audacious promises. Of which I heard plenty Friday in two speeches.
And by the way, Text FL to 622-62. And don’t forget to volunteer for your local Democratic Party, too.