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I've been invited to come give a talk - actually to charlar, which is more like a chat - with a 4th year University political science class in Buenos Aires. I'm nervous because I want to do this in Spanish. Last time I tried, a couple of weeks ago, with a small group of about 4 people, I ended up in Spanglish. I was also still mangling my past tense verbs. A few weeks later, I feel a little stronger with my language skills however I'm constantly being reminded about how everyone here speaks English. I get that. I'm just tired of representing the nation that doesn't speak other languages... I want to prove that an American cannot only learn another language, but communicate in it as well!

Anyway, I have taken my notes and put them in diary form down below the fold (in English). I feel pretty good so far. They asked me to speak about my experience with the campaign and about new media. I had to find a way to tie them together. Let me know what you think.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I'm a Graduate of UC Berkeley in English Literature, a Military wife and mom of two.

These things are just facts. During the Obama campaign of 2008 I learned how to introduce myself with more than facts. Here's what I would tell people during the campaign:

Hi, my name is Angie and I'm a volunteer with Barack Obama. I was attracted to Barack's campaign because I want to see an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You see, my husband is active duty and I know that if we continue these wars, he'll be sent again and again to fight them. Barack Obama has pledged to bring home troops from Iraq and to focus our attention on Afghanistan. That's why I'm going to vote for Barack this November.

We taught thousands of volunteers how to introduce themselves in similar ways. Everybody had a reason for working for the campaign, be it health care, ending the wars, or just the historic nature of the campaign itself. We all were riding on a tide of hope and we learned how to translate our hope into words to convince others to vote as well.

In the US, voting is not mandatory. We have to get people to the polls on election day. Everything that the Obama campaign did was in support of that final goal - election day and votes. In the US, we call it GOTV, or Get Out The Vote.

What the Obama campaign did differently from all other campaigns is to use new media to gather a data base of potential voters. People who are engaged vote. Every attempt at gathering more names was also an attempt to engage people in a conversation of some type or another.

Every attempt at contact also included a call to action - messages via email, cellphone, and twitter all made direct asks for donations to the campaign, for volunteer time, for attendance at rallies or at houseparties, and, finally, for your vote.

Obviously, the campaign's use of new media was a huge part of Obama's success. Richard Edelma, a public relations executive, points out:

Three million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations on-line adding up to more than $500 million in funds raised. Of those donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. His email list has 13 million addresses. A million people signed up for the text-messaging program. Two million profiles were created on, his social network, plus 5 million supporters in other venues such as Facebook and MySpace.

When you compare these same numbers to John McCain's, there is a stunning difference:

Obama: 2,379,102 supporters
McCain: 620,359 supporters
Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain

Obama: Friends: 833,161
McCain: Friends: 217,811
Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain

Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110
McCain: 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views: 2,032,993
Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain
Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain

Obama: @barackobama has 112,474 followers
McCain: @JohnMcCain (is it real?) 4,603 followers
Obama has 240 times more followers in Twitter than McCain

After the fact, a staff member of the campaign's headquarters in Chicago, Rahaf Harfoush summed up the New Media experience into these six simple lessons:

  • Give new media a seat at the strategy table.
  • The new digital tools are useless without a blueprint.
  • As with any communications campaign, social media campaigns require consistency in messaging.
  • Map out the digital landscape of your target audiences (find the conversations relevant to your strategy).
  • Include a call to offline action.
  • Be ready to give up control to your communities

My part of the job didn't jump in until low on this list... number 5. I was a part of the call to action and then I became the person who initiated calls to action.

I volunteered on two different levels. For the primary in Texas, I was neighborhood captain. I trained with Camp Obama and learned how to recruit other volunteers. I led teams phonebanking and canvasing. I basically learned how to be a political campainer in just a few weeks.

During the main election, I worked as the Out of State Coordinator for San Antonio, Texas. This, too, was a volunteer position. I basically controlled recruitment, training, and deployment of volunteers from the San Antonio, Texas greater area into states that needed greater support. We understood that Obama could not win Texas so it was more important to place our resources in states where we could possibly change the electoral college votes. We sent folks to Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia. On election day, I managed a huge phonebank where we made tens of thousands of calls to GOTV in other states. It was an amazing day.

I used the website more times than I can count for both volunteer positions. The tools made available to us as volunteers were unbelievable.

  • I could meet other Obama supporters online, both from my own town and from other towns around the country.
  • I could post meetings and events easily and people could RSVP. This made planning house parties a breeze.
  • I could find events posted by other people and see what kind of impact the campaign was having not only in my neighborhood, but in places all around San Antonio, as well as Texas and the rest of the United States.
  • I could refer to the website whenever I was asked a question I couldn't answer about policy. The answer was usually there. If it wasn't, we could click on a link and send the question to a staffer and would receive an answer within a day.
  • I could share my thoughts with 2 million other Obama users by writing a blog.
  • I could join groups of like minded people within the Barack Obama world... I could join other military wives to speak out about military issues. We actually designed an ad that played online and on the air in Nevada and Florida.
  • I could phonebank from my home using the tools on the website. This opened up a whole new world of potential volunteers.
  • I could see my results on my BarackObama page - I knew how much money I had donated, or had raised, and how many calls I had made. The campaign rewarded you on a point system. Personally, this was my least favorite but I know lots of people wanted to see their standing on BarackObama go sky high.
At this point in my life, I didn't have a Facebook account, I had never Twittered, and I had rarely looked at YouTube. But I belonged to For me, it wasn't twitter or Facebook that changed campaigning but how the Obama team organized it's volunteer force and made us feel an important and integral part of the team. The tools his staff made available to us through made a huge difference - they made it possible for everyday people to take control of the campaign in their part of the country. He made sure all 2 million of us felt like we were a part of the team.

Folks over at webofchange agree:

"...Online volunteer organizing essentially built the campaign a structure in places where it didn't exist, letting paid staff parachute in and immediately take command of a working political army." All this was managed through an enterprise-level database unprecedented for political campaigns.

Another reason the campaign was smart to design it's own interface is explained by
Scott Goodstein, a Washington D.C.-based campaign manager:

The problem with MySpace or Facebook (which are examples of external organizing) is that you as a campaign don't own all of the data. You may not have the person's e-mail address or you may not have the person's phone number -- if the person opts out of that social network, you have no way of getting in touch with them. But they are useful because there are hundreds of millions of people that use these social networks as a daily part of their life.

So, this might leave you wondering what the next campaign in 2012 will look like. Rumor has it that it won't be just more of the same... they will make things better and look to add new technologies... would you like to direct a campaign from your smart phone, anyone?

Originally posted to A Progressive Military Wife on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 05:20 AM PDT.

Also republished by Global Expats and America Latina.

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Comment Preferences

  •  From the 2008 successes with new media (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, Gooserock, ms badger

    the opposing party has learned how to utilize the same methods. Therefore, new approaches have to be engineered. Especially one to handle lies and distortions. So to me, that is where the challenge is.

    Also, in light of the new voter restriction laws in GOP governor states, focus must change from GOTV to Get out the Registration.

    •  It will be interesting to see how the opposing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RhodaA, Gooserock

      side uses new media and how effective it will be for them.

      I think there biggest barrier is that the target market for most Republicans is much older and less likely to be attracted to most of the New Media methods.

      •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

        OT: When I think of Argentina, I think of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla ("father of the tango). His music is, to me, transpiring - I can't put it into words. If you want, I'll post a video of one my favorite of his pieces performed by Yo Yo Ma.

      •  On the Other Hand They Own Old Media Which Reach (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        especially the high-turnout elderly, whose turnout went up at least 1/3 for the midterm compared to the 2008 general when everybody else dropped.

        They also have 1/4 of the US population in evangelicals which, politics entirely aside, is built to be a persuasion and recruitment machine, and that's their GOTV.

        I think Obama's got a strong shot to retain the WH, and no doubt these new media efforts are very important to our side which lacks anything institutional comparable to mainstream media or evangelicalism.

        But it's not 2008, the country's had 2 years to see Democratic performance, and last fall's vote on that was catastrophic. I hope to hell it was only because nobody tried to make it better.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 07:12:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree that we have serious concerns for the (0+ / 0-)

          upcoming election.

          In some ways, I think Obama's best hope is that the Republicans nominate a Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman, someone super polarizing.

          I was at a dinner last night with many Americans and progressive leaning younger Americans are looking at their options - Romney and Huntsman were talked about in positive terms. People are waiting to see how this all shakes out.

  •  That's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    awesome that you can speak, and teach other languages, it's a point of status not to be overlooked, and always acknowledged, I get it...

    The thing is, most people in this country have not been afforded the same opportunities as say, an upbringing and education abroad, with access to unlimited funds and resources.

    Some had those opportunities removed from their lives through the efforts of others, whatever, life's not fair...

    The thing now, is do I need a pedigree or multi lingual education now to get a job, or keep it?

    Peace Shopper- Saving more than pennies :-)

    by Maori on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 05:56:01 AM PDT

    •  Good question about needing another language (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, SLKRR

      to get a job.

      We don't have the money for this either - the travel and the living overseas.

      I'm a military wife. We wouldn't be here in Argentina accept that our government sent my husband here as an exchange student. Call if luck, if you like. I'm just taking advantage of what military life has handed us.

      We know from living overseas in the past that if we are to learn another language, the best and easiest way is through immersion. Always. I wish we had more opportunities for it in the US.

      And, we wanted our two sons to learn another language because we do think it will make a difference to their job options when they are adults.

      •  My wife is Dutch, so she took our daughter (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, SLKRR

        to live in Holland for a year when she was 5.  I stayed home and called as often as I could.  They left in June, but throughout the summer, she thought she'd just teach everyone in school English when school started.  By October 31, her speech had a bit of a Dutch accent, by Thanksgiving, her sentence structure was Dutch, words English.  By Christmas, she was obviously translating from Dutch to English in her head in order to speak with me.  She's been bi-lingual (now "tri-" with the addition of Spanish) ever since, and is 21 now.

        Absolute best time to teach kids a language is when they're 4-6 years old.  They soak it up like a sponge.

        Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
        I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

        by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 09:43:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well done. (3+ / 0-)

    You did a good job laying out the basics of the campaign in a personal, compelling manner.

    Since it's an advanced poli sci class, and they may know some of the literature, you might want to rephrase this slightly:

    Obviously, the campaign's use of new media was a huge part of Obama's success.
    It's not "obvious" so much as it's an empirical question that is difficult to answer.  On the one hand, I think you're 100% safe in saying that new media was important to his primary victory.  Primary elections are unwieldy, unpredictable affairs in which things like fundraising and campaigning take center stage.  On the other hand, Obama performed exactly as well in the general election as the forecasting models predicted any Democrat would against any Republican, given the state of the economy and Bush's approval.  So it's a tough sell to a poli sci audience that new media played a large role in his general election victory.

    You've been fooled by April, and she's gone. . .

    by cardinal on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 06:33:04 AM PDT

    •  Good points to make. (3+ / 0-)

      I think you're right about the difference between the primary and the main election. I'll make sure to temper than when I give the talk.

      I get the impression that people here are looking for the 'magic bullet' for their next elections. Don't think they're going to find it in the new media... I think they would do better to look at the community organizing instead.

      •  I concur, and would go farther. Organizing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        was what new media provided more efficient methods for, but when push comes to shove, especially in the new "get out the registrations" climate, organizing will be of paramount importance.  The tools new medial will provide will help termendously, but organizing feet on the ground will make the difference.

        Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
        I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

        by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 09:47:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  For me the new media was key, and I didn't get (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    involved until after the primaries. I have little time and big family commitments. Phone banking off was easy.

    I don't worry about the monolingualism of America. The second language most others learn is English, no other language is as useful internationally and no one needs to learn more languages to be fully functional in the US.

    There are many advantages to learning a second language, just not as many for Americans.

    I personally think the second language everyone should be learning is Mandarin, most spoken language, but instead most schools opt for the familiar French/Spanish/German.

    "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 09:03:15 AM PDT

    •  I think Mandarin would be a great second language (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to learn but I have a feeling we should never assume we know the next best language - we have had times when everyone felt we, as a nation, should know French, Russian, Arabic, Farsi, some languages in Africa that I can't remember the names, and a few others. All were seen as important to international relations.

      As a nation, we should train people to speak many different languages to cover our bases.

      The bad thing about speaking only English when everyone else can communicate with us is that we have no 'secret language.' They can talk in front of us with ease and assume we're stupid (my husband has had it happen to him and it's a joy to see the look of shock on people's faces when they realize he did just understand what they said) but we can't do the same to them. Learning other languages evens the playing field.

      And some things are just better expressed in a different tongue. Funny, that.

      •  unfortunately it's impossible to learn all languag (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        es. Someone will always be able to speak such that you don't understand.

        My best second language is one of the obscure ones spoken purely by about 4 million people. Helps to understand the culture a lot.

        I guess another advantage to a second language is it makes a third or fourth much easier. Lots of Chinese are extremely fluent in 4 because their mother tongue isn't Mandarin and English is obligatory for higher education, so they have 3 already.

        "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

        by ban nock on Mon Jun 13, 2011 at 06:39:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The "secret language" (0+ / 0-)

        Funny, but true story: some years ago, my wife and I (and her family) visited Israel.  Her father was worried that Israelis might be prejudiced against him for being of Iranian descent, so he made sure if anyone asked where he was from that he only told them "Brazil" (where we all live currently).  

        This backfired during a cab ride - the driver, who claimed to be Russian, thought my father-in-law looked more Middle-Eastern than Brazilian, but my father-in-law stuck to his story.  Then he asked a couple of questions of my wife in their "secret language": Farsi.  Turns out that the "Russian" cab driver was also a bit afraid of revealing his origin - he was actually from Uzbekistan, more specifically a region of Uzbekistan that spoke a dialect of Persian!  I'm not sure who was more surprised when he was able to understand the "secret language."

        At the end, we all had a good laugh.

        This also backfires on Brazilians sometimes -- when I am traveling to other parts of Brazil, I look just like any other American tourist.  People get really embarrassed sometimes when they realize that I can speak Portuguese and that I've listened to their entire "secret conversation" right in front of me.  ;-)

        Using English as a secret language sucks - whenever I try it, I have to speak really quickly and with lots of slang, because there are always people around that know some English.

        Article 196. Health is the right of all and the obligation of the State, guaranteed through social and economic policies that provide... universal and equitable access to programs and services for its promotion, protection, and recuperation.

        by SLKRR on Mon Jun 13, 2011 at 07:00:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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