In what was certainly one of the most defining moment in American politics, the perfect storm of a wildly unpopular president, an economy in shambles, an opposition party in shambles, an inspired electorate, and, well, yes, an inspiring candidate, Barack Obama affirmed his ascension to the Presidency of the United States.
On this foundation, the Obama campaign started to build anew. New hope. New compassion. Belief. Change. And they ended up building the most successful branding campaign in American Presidental election history. Within the campaign, Obama’s tactical teams devised a branding strategy that attacked the staid political system, measured and answered expectations of the most viral generation in history, and made Obama seem like the only choice to anyone who was on the fence about voting for him. They made Americans care about the political process again.
The campaign went multi-channel, using the Internet as JFK did TV, and FDR did radio, to tear down the distance between citizens and their leader. Barack Obama’s even on Twitter (if he manages to “Tweet” during his presidency, well, that would be something, wouldn’t it?). Barack Obama, the person, almost took second place to Obama the Brand. And in cases of where the message was in a more limited form, it was easier to spread the brand. Obama = good. new. fresh. inspired.
So now what?
Having done such a good job of selling the core concepts, with a success margin beyond even their wildest expectations, even Obama’s own staff admit, there’s a lot left to do, and understand the need to tamp down expectations. The vision of establishing an easy critical path to “change we can believe in” portrayed during the campaign is going to have to be modified to cope the reality of American democracy itself. The fact that Obama can be president definitely underscores the core tenets that people can have a voice, and that democracy can “work”. But, on the transverse of this, because people can have a voice, opposition to Obama will always exist. This push and pull of American democracy has ripped America apart like never before of late, and this, of course will be the biggest single challenge to real change.
The list of problems we face are long. And, never again will so many people be so united behind Obama. But the difference to me, at least so far, over every other president claiming change in the White House, is the self-awareness of the Obama campaign, and certainly Obama himself.
The campaign knows they need to “look under the covers” of the beautiful building they’ve built to take a look at the foundation of pain and suffering they were able to leverage. They understand that open communication with the American people is critical to maintaining as much of the landslide of support. In months and years ahead, they understand this building will wobble, but it must not fall.
Understanding this, the Obama team yesterday unveiled change.gov, which now focuses on the transition team, but will certainly become this portal for “change”. (What was the last time you were excited about ANY government website?) and hopefully the place where transparency and honesty rule the communication. This is the first step of what will become a constant need to evolve the Obama brand, from “Obama the candidate” to “Obama the president”. Indeed, the need to defend it against individual failures in bills, and legislation, and political attacks, and to keep people focused on the big picture will be challenging.
Why? Because Americans can’t stand to get their hearts broken again. Republican or Democrat, life just needs to get better for everyone.