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Micah Sifry Headshot

Obama's Organization and the Future of American Politics

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Barack Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton is the first time an insurgent has beaten the establishment candidate in the Democratic primaries since Jimmy Carter in 1976. This is interesting and important for all kinds of reasons. One, as I've written before, is that it suggests that the era of Big Money and Big Media pre-selecting the nominee of the Democratic party may well be over, in no small part because of the the Internet: lower costs of communication and collaboration, and less allowances for hypocrisy and dishonesty in campaigns.

But there's another big reason why Obama's victory is so important. He is riding herd on the largest and most potent new political organization anyone has seen on the American landscape in at least sixteen years. He's probably got anywhere from four to eight million email addresses on top of his 1.5 million donors and 800,000 registered users of my.barackobama.com, his social networking platform.

What happens with this organization if Obama wins? What will he do with it? And what will it do with him? For us here at techPresident, a website that is focused on how the candidates are using the web, and the web is using them, by the time November rolls around, this could be the billion-dollar question.

This isn't the first time this question has arisen in modern American politics, by the way. And usually the answer is "Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss." It's just that the internet should force us to think about the possibilities of a different answer. Not only that, I think Obama is thinking about a different answer.

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