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Obama Says, “Take Action”

BY Alan Rosenblatt | Monday, May 14 2007

I have for many years argued that campaign websites should also be used to mobilize grassroots action on legislative issues. While I generally talk about using these websites in this manner between elections, I am, nevertheless, happy to see Senator Obama using his campaign website to mobilize grassroots action to contact Republican Senators and urge them to override the President’s veto on the supplemental Iraq war spending bill.

The call to action is loud and clear on his homepage. 16 votes are needed. Your voice is needed.

But when I clicked through to the action page, I got confused. I did not find the comfortable ZIP Code box that would match me up to the right Senator. Instead, I found a lot of text that did not really help me figure out what to do.

A moment later, I saw the map, with directions to click on my state to sign the petition. I found my state. It was red. I assumed that meant I had a Republican Senator and should click it, but that was not clear. I guessed right, but I should not have had to guess.

Once I clicked on the icon for my state, I reached a webform to sign the petition. Again I reached a page with very unclear instructions. Was I about to send a message to all 20 Republican Senators or just my own?

I assumed I was writing just my own. I think I was wrong. But I assumed so, because as a digital political strategist myself, I know that my objections only matter to my own Senator. I know that all Congressional offices disregard messages from people outside their state or district. Still, I think the petition is going to all 20 Republican Senators up for re-election.

Thankfully, I knew my Republican Senator was John Warner. After all, I have a Ph.D. in Political Science. But what about the majority of citizens who are unable to name their Congressional delegation, let alone know which ones are Republican?

So while I applaud the Obama campaign for recognizing that an election campaign website can also be used to drive grassroots issue activism, I wish he was using the best practices for these types of campaigns; best practices that have been established since the 1990’s. Tell me what you want me to do. Make it easy to do. Give me the information I need to effectively make my voice heard. Please.