President Obama has the kind of power that most politicians can't touch: cultural power.
In my piece today on the relationship between the president and the press, I touch on how this plays a factor in helping the White House go around the Washington press corps and gain the upper hand. From the piece: "He is a celebrity politician the likes of which has not been seen before in an age where image rules supreme."
Consider this: among the top five Twitter accounts in the world, two are outspoken supporters of the president who campaigned for him (Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, with 34 million and 32 million followers respectively) and Obama himself is at number five. There are no other American politicians in the top 100, or 200 for that matter. It is all musicians, movie stars, athletes, and other pop culture icons. The only politician anywhere close is Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who is at number 182 with 4 million followers to Obama's 27.5 million.
With a few keystrokes on his Twitter account, Obama (or a staffer from Organizing for Action, which controls the account) can reach more people than watch all the TV networks and cable news on an average night (22 million for the networks and 3 million for cable in 2011).
But Obama's presence in that list of top accounts is more symbolic than anything. He is a global force of personality and marketing. This fact is often lost Washington, where everything is viewed through a political lens and every move on Capitol Hill is catalogued by a thousand Tweets. But in real America, not much out of Washington cuts through the clutter more than the president's bully pulpit. That's even more so now given this president's celebrity.
Howard Fineman also touched on this topic in his column yesterday.