Ken thought this complaint from voters was understandable. In the era of mass media (radio, television, direct mail) and campaign "air wars" --dominated by negative campaign ads -- traditional political strategists viewed voters as impersonal demographic targets, to be sold a message that has been test-marketed by focus groups but has nothing to do with listening to individual voters' real concerns. Until 2008, the "ground war" or grassroots organizing had been increasingly ignored by political campaigns since the advent of television advertising in 1960. But that era is now ending. The Obama campaign's ground war was hugely successful. Two-way, interactive communication over the Internet is replacing one-way television broadcasts, and reducing the isolation and alienation that voters feel.
Visionary precinct leaders like Ken Boggs understand the huge potential of information technology to reconnect citizens with their government. He started a blog called Chatham-County.blogspot.com, that reported on the Obama campaign from a very local perspective and helps citizens in his area connect with their representatives. Now the task for precinct leaders like Ken is to use new media tools as well as face-to-face contact to maintain connections with voters, and harness the energy of the Obama movement, so that in two or four years he doesn't hear the same complaints he encountered in 2008.
For more than 12 years, I've advocated the development of online structures that mirror real-life civic and political structures, listening to and recruiting citizens at the grassroots precinct level to be more involved in civic life and government. Here in Chatham County, thanks to the Obama victory, we're starting to do that. Obama won this county by 3194 votes -- 17,862 to 14,668. Four years earlier, in 2004, John Kerry won Chatham County by just 12 votes. The margin of victory in 2008 is attributable to an aggressive voter registration drive, new opportunities to vote early, and a highly visible and well-organized Obama ground game in the county.
Imagine if many of those nearly 18,000 voters as well as McCain voters with whom they find common ground remain connected -- via email, social networks, face-to-face meetings. Imagine if precinct leaders listen to their concerns, imagine if they are recruited for volunteer programs and service projects in the community. Imagine if this kind of organizing happens in every county in the nation -- what a different, and better, nation this would be. To sustain and grow this movement, Obama has announced the creation of "Organizing for America":
I'd say this organization has a good chance to make the dream of a more responsive, participatory democracy a reality.