Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mr. Popularity - In The Age Of Social Networking, Does Policy Fall By The Wayside?

Barack Obama has proven himself in the fundraising department. He's an absolute phenomenon in the Internet support department. But when push comes to shove, how will these successes stack up against his lack of experience and more importantly, his lack of policy?

With so much policy-making and issue-positioning behind Hillary Clinton, she remains a landslide ahead in the Gallup polls. But what does this mean in an age when droves of voting-age supporters out of Gallup's reach rally 'round a fresh face like Obama?

This week's Economist asserts that the burden is on Obama to pass the policy test over the next few weeks, to make up for his lack of experience if he wants to stay alive in the primary. "[Obama] was an angst-ridden schoolboy in Hawaii when Mrs Clinton was getting her first taste of Washington during the Watergate affair," says The Economist (4/14/2007). And since then, with only two years of Capitol Hill experience under his belt, he's proven a far greater orator than policy-maker. From Obama's congressional records, it seems fairly obvious that he is yet to sponsor a single bit of significant, nationally relevant legislation. Obama's issue positions (directly from his website) read as paint-by-numbers. We've heard them all before from countless other candidates. And like so many others, he fails to address key topical issues entirely, such as immigration. That said, it could very well turn out that with the right affect in the eyes of young, net-savvy voters, this might be more than enough to find success in this new age of politics. Hillary Clinton doesn't even have a section of bulleted issue positions on her campaign website. In fact, you must track down her senate website to see such a thing. So the big questions are, what counts and who matters?

In the past 8 days, Obama's MySpace friends have increased in number by 24.74%. Clinton's have jumped 23.98%. Despite this comparable leap, Obama support on MySpace outnumbers Clinton support by nearly 10 to 1. With all the math that goes into Gallup polls, the fact remains that they are samplings of less than 500 individuals (Gallup). Despite it being far too soon to hypothesize a correlation between browsing behavior and voting behavior, you cannot discount the willingness of hundreds of thousands of voting-aged individuals to show their support for candidates on social networking websites. One must question this discrepancy between Gallup and dare I say, MySpace. If policy will emerge as a make-it or break-it point for Obama over the next few weeks, one must assume based on shear numbers that it will be evident amongst the likes of YouTube and MySpace. And if it's not evident, this could begin to drive home the realization of the old axiom, "there's not a dimes worth of difference" - bringing the presidential bid one step closer to the prettiest boy in the running, Mr. popularity himself, Barack Obama.

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