Cool….one of my Facebook friends is now President-elect of the United States

by Marianne Richmond on November 12, 2008

Kelli asked whether or not President elect Barack Obama will keep his Facebook page or provide updates on Twitter. Farhad Manjoo at Slate asks what will become of candidate Barack Obama’s social networking sites now that he is President-elect Obama.

I think it is not hyperbole to say that one change you can believe in will be that the 44th President of the United States use of the social web will forever change the relationship between the American people and our government.

Obama was elected on November 4th. On November 6th, from the Office of the President Elect was live. Less than 2 days. And by the way, has any other President-elect so effectively used the words and the visuals of the office of the President elect to communicate leadership? Not that I recall.

Oh sure is an ordinary government web site in many ways. As noted by ArsTechnica you can read bios of the transition team and updates on cabinet positions. But there is a link to a blog and the post for November 11th has a Flickr slideshow.

There is a request to submit “your story” and the About page ends with an invitation to “Come back often as we define new programs and possibilities to engage and be part of this administration.” Yes, “be a part of this administration.”

And the first link right under “be part of” is a contact form for the transition team. So, you really want to be a part of the transition team. Maybe you think you would like a little seat on the President-elect’s cabinet.

There are lots of jobs open through out the new administration apparently but remember, if you have an illegal nanny or smoked pot in college, “Some positions will require Senate confirmation….financial disclosure….and may include FBI background checks.

Besides “your story” you can share “your vision” Well you can share you story and you can share your vision with the President-elects transition team. But you can’t share your opinions with your fellow Americans, at least on this site. There is not a place for Comments on the blog. At least not right now. Notwithstanding, the lines of communication are open and it will be virtually impossible for future Presidents to shut them down or to just push out information via newsletters.

Yes, the site has more social “like” than social at this point….response is sought to specific issues and questions rather than open comments. “Share your story” feels social and in fact allows you to tell whatever story you want to…same with vision. Obama’s last tweet was November 5th. But then again, this is a transition period.

Perhaps the most important dynamic that could potentially be changed by social media would be  diminishing the influence of lobbyists and special interests over time.. although I will emphasize the words “potential” and “over time.” It would be difficult to disregard the will of the people in favor of the desire of the powerful if the people pick up the available social media tools and start wielding them.

According to Farhad Manjoo of Slate there are “there are online petitions and Facebook groups calling on him {Barack Obama} to skip over Larry Summers and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for Cabinet positions.”

I also believe that if the American people communicate their “stories” to the president and to their fellow Americans…whether it is on the President’s site or on their own blogs or social network it will go a long way in keeping President Obama in touch with the way that what happens on Wall Street and/or in the Beltway really plays out, day to day, on Main Street.

When I graduated from college, I spent a summer working as a caseworker for the Missouri Department of Social Services as a re-investigation caseworker. Our jobs were to make sure that the mothers receiving what was then called Aid For Dependent Children (AFDC) and is now called Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) were abiding by the “guidlines” in order to continue receiving aid. Well. when I was brand new on this job, I took the “guidelines” to heart and during an investigation I “discovered” that one of my clients who had several very young children,  was receiving benefits from another agency which disqualified her to continue receiving her AFDC stipend so I cancelled her benefit without giving it much of a second thought.

A few days later I received  a phone call from a community agency that forever changed the way that I looked at my job or the welfare system in general….the voice on the phone confirmed my name and that I was the caseworker for Miss X. I confirmed it and then the person said well, she is here with her two babies and you cut off her support and she doesn’t have any food or milk to feed these babies. They are hungry, so we are feeding them…but you need to get them back in the program so Miss X can feed her babies.

Well I hadn’t been thinking about those babies…I had been thinking about the “law” which had been set by someone who had never been hungry and had never come face to face with any of the hungry babies when they passed the law.

So my point is? We the people are on the front lines of high gas prices, unaffordable health insurance, layoffs, usurious credit card interest rate practices, and home foreclosures. These are the stories that our elected officials need to stay in touch with…..and this day to day of life is the side of politics that we should blog about and  we need to use those contact forms the same way the mortgage bankers, credit card issuers, insurance companies do their telephones and checkbooks: to influence legislation and votes. Now that’s social media.

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