Future Forecast – The 2008 Election
The tag line of this blog is “A Future Look at Today”. It is not a political blog, nor is this a political column. I have assiduously kept politics out of this space leaving partisan conversations about campaign issues to others. There is a lot of heat around partisan politics and such heat can prevent clarity. As a futurist I think about the future by looking at the trends, patterns and dynamic forces that exist or are beginning to form. Readers of this column come here to get a sense of what might happen and why. That is the purpose of this column today.
In my “2007/2008” column published on January 1, 2008, before the Iowa caucus, my forecast for the 2008 election was:
“.. it looks to this observer that 2008 will be a Democratic landslide year on the order of 1936 and 1964. Who will be the President in 2009? The junior senator from Illinois.”
This forecast was and is based upon history, and an analysis of certain forces currently reshaping the world today. As a number of people who eagerly made bets with me in 2007 can attest, I have been saying that Barack Obama would be the next President of the United States for more than a year. The reason is that he represents, embodies and is utilizing powerful new forces that are in ascendancy today.
Disintermediation has been, and will continue to be one of the most powerful forces in the world. The Internet is the most powerful force of disintermediation since Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable type press. Regular readers know I have written extensively about this force. The Obama campaign has used the Internet for fund raising with great financial results. This direct relationship with small donors has effectively disintermediated the need to rely on special interests and bundlers to raise funds.
The Power of the Individual
The Flow to the Individual is one of the three forces that are reshaping humanity. In my book and in speeches I discuss this at length. The individual has more power and choice today than in any other time in history. With this power comes a sense of empowerment. Obama has, intentionally or not, tapped into this force. An individual who has contributed $100 directly to the campaign via the Internet, and receives regular emails from the campaign, has a stronger personal relationship with the candidate than someone who is told by a friend or work colleague to contribute $100 as a favor to a candidate that they are supporting.
Collaboration and Collective Thinking
An increasing percentage of people who work in America are involved in collaborative interaction as opposed to making things or serving customers. Ideas, projects and products are created in a collaborative manner. Young adults have come of age with the “we” consciousness of the group. Obama keyed directly into this with his slogan “Yes We Can”. He is not using the old language of “I will take care of this for you” or even “I have experience and know what to do” but rather “Together we can”.
All three of these forces are clearly inter-related and have provided people with a direct financial relationship with the candidate, whose winning provides them with a sense of empowerment and at the same time makes them feel as those they are in collaboration with millions of others.
1960 and 2008
Prior to 1960, a successful campaign for the Presidency relied upon a strong political organization, many large rallies and whistle stop journeys and the endorsements of major newspapers, the dominant medium of the day. In 1960 Jack Kennedy changed that with his successful use of television, which has been the dominant medium in presidential politics ever since. In a famous poll taken after the first televised Kennedy-Nixon debate, while a distinct majority of those viewing television thought that Kennedy had won, the majority of those listening on radio thought that Nixon had won. Being telegenic has mattered ever since. Who is more telegenic, Obama or McCain? In addition, the campaign of 1960 coincided with the emergence of television as the dominant medium.
The campaign of 2008 will be looked back upon as the one where the Internet became the critically important medium to win the Presidency. This of course coincides with the Internet being the medium in ascendancy today. The Obama campaign has mastered the use of the Internet and defined for the future what successful use of the Internet looks like. The brilliant use of the Internet will be one of the key reasons sited for his victory. It has been reported that McCain doesn’t use computers much, doesn’t’ understand the Internet or use email. Would you hire such a person to work for you in today’s world?
For better or worse, America likes stars and celebrities. Star power is real in this country. We fawn over â€˜stars’ Who has more star power, Obama or McCain?
There are many other powerful forces influencing this election: pessimism about the economy, dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, an unpopular war and a feeling that America might have lost its way and its moral leadership of the world. These will of course have great affect on the outcome of the election, but I leave that to political pundits for commentary.
On election night the headlines will be that Obama and the Democrats win in a landslide. Obama should capture 53% or more of the popular vote and the Democrats will approach 60% composition of both the House and the Senate.