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Daily Digest: Questioning the Marching-Orders Construct

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, November 24 2008

  • Building a Better Bully Pulpit: Is all this talk of openness and participation really just President-elect Barack Obama's way of supercharging the presidential bully pulpit? The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg considers whether Obama's most prominent use of technology will be to create a communications platform the skilled orator is well-poised to exploit. Stolberg's colleagues Daniel Lyons and Daniel Stone have their own take on what a "President 2.0" might mean, and their piece contains this nugget on the next steps of the Obama campaign's new media director Joe Rospars. Rospars, they report, won't be going to the White House. Instead, he's returning to Blue State Digital, joining "[o]ther top staff [who] expressed privately that the bigger opportunities and money will be found in dotcom, not dotgov."

  • We the People 2.0: The discussion of late about how President Obama might make use of his massive email list or build a "two-way" White House "misses the whole point," argues Craig Stoltz of the Web2.oh...Really? blog. The real takeaway from the '08 race, writes Stoltz, is that "people now communicate among themselves, without the permission, endorsement or encouragement of major institutions." It might seem natural to follow that line of thinking to conclude that have-our-say projects like ObamaCTO.org or Change.org's Ideas for Change in America (more on that below) aren't worth the trouble. The counter argument? That when it comes to these efforts, Obama isn't really serving as a deus ex machina. Instead, the incoming White House is simply a placeholder for our hopes and ambitions, and the real goal is to build our collaborative muscles and shape critical conversations.

  • We Have the Tools to Finally Pop the White House Bubble: The Media Consortium's Tracy Van Slyke suggests that if Obama really must give up the close contact provide by his beloved Blackberry, he should hire a team of "Special Community Liaisons" tasked with consuming new media on assigned issues, with the goal of spotting "top concerns, news, trends, and policy recommendations." Those liaisons would, in Van Slyke's plan, then use social tools to open up public conversations on the topic. But Newsweek's Jonathan Alter argues that Obama should buck the presidential tradition of giving in to the "splendid isolation" of the White House, and just keep his dang 'berry.

  • Government is Cool Again: Change.gov has taken in more than 200,000 resumes for executive branch political appointments, reports the New York Times' Michael Falcone -- though it's a bit unclear whether that figure indicates actual completed applications (which included a grueling nine-page questionnaire) or just simple statements of interest. (Thanks Shaun Dakin.) The optimist says that job seekers are energized by the change Obama has promised to bring to Washington. The cynic says that it's just that the White House is one of the very few employers in America hiring right now.

  • Japan's Online Politics (or Lack Thereof): Newsweek's Christian Caryl and Akiko Kashiwagi have a neat look at why online politics haven't exactly taken off in Japan, attributing the state of affairs to everything from the nation's non-neutral Internet to a culture that disdains direct confrontation. But one Japanese professor has a simple explanation: Japan's political establishment likes things the way they are, thank you very much. "Basically they want to suppress and eliminate any possibility for change," says Keio University's Kim Jung Hoon. "And the Internet is a major source of change."

  • Ideas for Change, and a Road Map: We mentioned above Change.org's Ideas for Change in America, where ideas for what's next rated mostly highly by the Change.org community will be sent on to the Obama Administration. The social-action hub has just announced that the project now has the backing of MySpace and a broad coalition of supporting partners, including techPresident, the Sunlight Foundation, Netroots Nation, VotoLatino, GOOD Magazine, Change Congress, Campus Progress, and People for the America Way. The end goal, states Change.org, isn't simply sending a note to the White House with a note saying "Get 'er done." Instead, once the top ten ideas are identified, "we will then build a national campaign to advance each idea in Congress, marshaling the resources of Change.org, MySpace, and our dozens of partner organizations and millions of combined members."

In Case You Missed It...

Gene Koo has part two in his great series called "From Campaigning to Governance." The focus of this installment is transparency, which, writes Gene, can help balance the problem of "asymmetric attention." That's where ordinary concerned citizens struggle when pitted against those with tremendous veted interests (read: lobbyists).

Allison Fine pushes back against the idea that what America needs right at the moment is more and better volunteerism, saying that our energies should be directed toward making government work.

Nancy Scola has a look at Barack Obama's second weekly YouTube address, saying that the series finds the President-elect navigating the tricky path of having enormous perceived power without the hard power of the presidency.

In "Change We Can Perceive In," Tom Watson says that when we consider how "believers" and "cynical pragmatists" seem to be differently judging the presidential transition, it might be the latter who "end up happier with President Obama."

Finally, from our Department of Horn Tooting, Craig Newmark of Craigslist has a nice mention of techPresident in which he says of the site, "you can get an idea of how the future is being invented there." Has a nice ring to it, no?