I saw a tweet from former senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer that said:

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This tweet reminded me of what I discussed in my dissertation about what Hillary’s 2008 Presidential Campaign lacked: Engagement.

In my dissertation I rhetorically analyzed Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s campaign blogs. I collected 188 campaign blog posts from Hillary’s campaign website, 1, 491 blog posts from President Obama’s campaign website, and 128 blog posts for John Mcain’s campaign website. As you can see Hillary’s campaign lacked the depth and information that Obama’s campaign composed. Twitter was not the force it is in campaigns now. Believe it or not, 2008 was pre-hashtag craze. It wasn’t until the 2012 election where I first saw Twitter’s value in political campaigns.

Let me summarize my findings from the 2008 campaign.

President Obama’s campaign boasted his endorsements, which helped him gain ethos, credibility, between him and the electorate. As for Hillary Clinton her blog lacked such ethos examples. I found, ” While Obama’s blog highlights each endorsement in a stand-alone post, Clinton publishes her endorsements in her campaign blogs’ “Hubdates,” thus requiring blog readers to search for the endorsement announcements” (78).

President Obama allowed others to build his credibility. In fact,

His campaign identifies his weakness—his lack of experience—and counters that information by posting endorsement announcements: to show voters that credible politicians and organizations support Obama as the next president. (81)

Hillary Clinton wanted readers to be excited about being the first viable female presidential candidate. She also reminded her supporters that she’s behind in the polls:

Clinton urges her supporters to take responsibility for and ownership of her campaign. For example, in one post, Clinton says, “I need your help to win in Pennsylvania and the races beyond. Your commitment and investment are absolutely critical” (April 4,2008). Clinton pleads with readers to support her campaign so she can compete with Obama. Clinton often makes this type of plea, and each time, she mentions how much money Obama has raised and asks her supporters to continue to donate. (93)

The way the Obama campaign used pathos in his campaign blogs:

Obama creates a dialogical interaction with blog readers through his campaign blog and through that interaction, he motivates supporters to respond: to vote in primaries, to donate money, and to volunteer. Obama reminds people to make phone calls, to attend events, and to discuss Obama with their parents. Obama helps readers organize their thoughts about the presidential race and even influences his blog readers through rhetorical figures of speech and interactive visual rhetorical techniques such as “Make Calls” and “Donate” buttons. (101)

Hillary’s campaign lacked emotional depth to create a deep connection with the electorate. My advice then was for both John McCain and Hillary Clinton to engage their electorate.

Clinton and McCain frequently miss opportunities to connect emotionally with their audiences and thus they do not use their blogs—rhetorical tools—to emotionally connect. McCain should post more about his campaign needs and enlist his blog readers to help promote his campaign, and Clinton should balance the emotion that she expresses to do more than to urge supporters to donate. (101-102)

As for the best logical argument within the 2008 campaign blogs, Hillary again lacked in creating confidence in the electorate:

Overall, in his blogs Obama uses logical argumentative language more than Clinton and McCain. Obama’s motive for using logos figures of speech is to show readers his determination to win. This determination, Obama hopes, would inspire the grassroots efforts to keep fighting for his cause. The independent action created by such language by Obama is evident when Clinton admits that Obama has outspent and out- fundraised her campaign. Clinton’s campaign shows poor judgment in broadcasting Obama’s financial successes; however, overall, Obama’s supporters create more hype and more innovative techniques to keep Obama afloat, even with his fluctuating poll numbers. (148)

In “Discourse in the Novel,” in The Dialogical Imagination Bakhtin explains:

In political rhetoric […] discourse can support some candidacy, represent the personality of a candidate, present and defend his point of view, his verbal statements, or in other cases protest against some decree, law, order, announcement, occasion—that is, protest against the specific verbal utterances toward which it is dialogically aimed. (353)

Bakhtin’s explanation of political rhetoric is what Hillary NEEDS to do in 2016 through social media. The old-fashioned way of using television campaign ads, using news media to discuss important issues, and as effective as human interaction is to a campaign–social media can help candidates tap into audiences who don’t read the newspaper, who don’t attend rallies, who are not politically active, and who have no idea why Brian Williams is not broadcasting the news any longer.

In my opinion, Hillary alienated voters by actively pursuing the tactic that she was the first woman running for POTUS. The women in history blog posts that ran during the last of her campaign were written by influential women such as Maya Angelo, but again, she alienated a segment of her audience by not engaging a broader audience as did Obama.

What Hillary is doing right in 2016:

First she’s highlighting real people and as Dan Pfeiffer tweeted–this strategy is a smart way to engage supporters. In 2008, many Barack Obama supporters wrote blog posts that were highlighted on the main campaign blog. Now that Twitter is an asset to campaign with, the campaign blog can become an extension of the Twitterbites that campaigns post. Twitter can also help to instantly inform the electorate about campaigns. Hillary’s campaign team is smart to allow real people to post to help form the grassroots campaign by engaging the electorate, which then a campaign hopes will motivate more people to action to support Clinton’s campaign.

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Hillary Clinton is also highlighting public endorsements. The more people, celebrities, politicians, etc, will help show that many people have confidence in Clinton’s ability to run the country.

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Also highlighted on Clinton’s Twitter feed are volunteers showing how they are organizing and volunteering to help support Clinton’s campaign. In 2008, you did not see these people highlighted on her blog as much. These stories might have been elsewhere on Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, but the posts I collected did not.

Twitter has definitely upped engagement with the electorate. But, even when Mitt Romney used the platform in 2012, his campaign did not take the rhetorical advantage of Twitter. Now, a candidates’s Twitter stream can share video, photos, and links back to more information. Let’s not forget about live streaming speeches with Periscope and MeerKat.

Candidates will still be scrutinized through the news media and that’s part of the process. Hillary Clinton is already being scrutinized by avoiding the press. The more information American citizens gather from each side and from each source–Americancitizens can only hope to choose the best candidate to hold the highest political office in the United States.

Overall, the main goal of a presidential campaign is to create effective, persuasive messages that move people to action. In today’s world, social media brings the electorate to the candidate and the candidate to the electorate. There’s no excuse NOT to politically engage in 2016.

 

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WH-135

When I finished my dissertation in 2010 about the 2008 United States Presidential Campaign, my first chapter traced the history of technology through Presidential Campaigns to show the dialogical interaction between candidate and electorate. But, when new technology becomes popular in a campaign the same technology becomes a significant part of the White House. Today, I feel as if I need to update the chapter in my dissertation to include Twitter. Here’s a look at the history of technology slowly influencing politics. Adopting new technology into the White House always starts with the Presidential Campaign…

  • George Washington “stood” for election 224 years ago.  He didn’t interact with the electorate because he did not want any American citizen to believe he wanted to be king. During Washington’s time, he also sent letters to Congress as a means to update them about the State of the Union. That’s right, there was never a social media “meet up” during the first State of the Union.
  • Of course the Presidential race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams was tumultuous to say the least. The newspaper helped fuel the first negative campaign in history. The newspaper also helped hone public opinion and to allow citizens to read about politics. Jefferson acknowledged that the negative campaign the press wrote about was a sign that Americans were free to express their opinions–a freedom that was new to American citizens.
  • Abraham Lincoln: During his time as president in the 1860s the Industrial Revolution was booming. Higher literacy rates created more readers, which in turn created a more informed electorate. Lincoln reached out to the electorate by telegraph. The telegraph allowed him to communicate during the Civil War as well as create a precedence on using new technology as Commander-in-Chief.
  • President William McKinley used to stage events on his front porch. President McKinley was the first president to be featured on film. The moving pictures created a strong connection between citizen and the U.S. President. McKinley’s campaign manager Marcus Hanna had a knack for creating an atmosphere where the press sought them out.  To the public McKinley’s speeches sounded extemporaneous but really, all of his speeches were mass distributed by messenger so the press would always have a copy to print ASAP.
  • Then in 1928 the radio became a staple during Herbert Hoover and opponent Al Smith’s campaign. Just like today, a new technology as innovative as radio, one had to find their “voice.” Smith didn’t like to keep to a script and would move around and miss speaking into the microphone. Herbert Hoover, not known as a dynamic speaker, spoke into the microphone, which meant his message was heard.
  • Of course Franklin D. Roosevelt taught every set the precedence of how radio was used in the White House. He created fireside chats where it felt as if he was chatting with Americans in their living rooms. He knew how to discuss issues with the constituents who would then persuade their Congressmen to vote the way FDR would like them to. Citizens felt as if they were a part of political process.
  • After FDR’s death Harry Truman traveled across America by train. His campaign was labeled “The Whistle-Stop Campaign.” He was one of the first presidential candidates to go out on the road and meet his electorate. He used the train and radio to help spread his message and to interact with citizens. The one thing historians said President Truman showed was that there was nothing more important than human interaction.
  • Fast forward to 1952 during Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon campaign. Eisenhower aired the first television campaign advertisement. The advertisement showed Eisenhower having a conversation with what seemed to be an average American citizen. Here’s one of Eisenhower’s early campaign ads.

During Eisenhower’s second term election, Eisenhower used television to show he was healthy enough to serve a second term. The campaign showed Eisenhower’s 65th birthday on televison.

  • Television from Eisenhower and to present day has dominated how the White House has reached American citizens. John F. Kennedy and opponent Richard Nixon aired the first presidential debate. Nixon could not compete with Kennedy’s good looks. But, if you asked who won the debate the audience who watched on television said Kennedy. The audience who listened on the radio said Nixon won the debate. The difference in technology and perception while using that technology matters.
  • The Internet: The 1992 campaign between Bill Clinton and George Bush used email for the first time to reach the electorate. Senator John McCain was the first presidential candidate to raise over $1 million in 2000. Then Howard Dean, during the 2004 election, raised over $40 million online. After Howard Dean’s Internet success–political communication has never been the same.
  • In 2008 President Barack Obama embraced emerging media and used technology to interact and identify with the electorate. This mindset has not changed during his presidency, but has flourished by using every facet of technology to reach citizens.

Twitter and The Presidency

Yesterday, The White House announced that the Twitter account @POTUS was created. Yes, an official Twitter account for the President of the United States. This is important because:

1.  It’s the first time a President has had his own social media account while in office. Yes, he’s had accounts before, but this is his Twitter account where he is not occasionally dropping in on the conversation.

2. President Obama has instant access to bypass any mass media. The President of the United States has access to his own account and can control his own message. (I’m sure staff members will still post for him, but overall, this is his own account in his own voice.)

3. Tweet @POTUS and you never know–he may favorite your tweet, respond, or retweet you. Engagement between the highest held office in America and the American citizen has never been richer. And remember, @POTUS will not be used by President Obama for much longer. A new Twitter resident will hold this account in the future. He is just the first one to set the precedence to create less distance between the Presidency and citizen.

Overall, Twitter in the White House creates opportunities for a dialogical interaction with the plethora of Twitter voices. As Mikhail Bakhtin said in The Dialogic Imagination explains:

In all areas of life and ideological activity, our speech is filled to overflowing with other people’s words, which are transmitted with highly varied degree of accuracy and impartiality. The more intensive, differentiated and highly developed the social life of a speaking collective, the greater is the importance attaching, among other possible subjects of talk, to another’s word, another’s utterance, since another’s word will be the subject of passionate communication, an object of interpretation, discussion, evaluation, rebuttal, support, further development and so on. (337)

Yes, the greater the collective voice that Twitter allows creates a more intense and passionate conversation. And as the conversation revolves around #socialcivics at the White House with Jason Goldman’s call for action, social media and public engagement will further continue to grow to where administrations in the future will have to embrace technology to create a dialogical interactive social media presence. If not… then not only will the electorate suffer, but so will the politicians who don’t embrace the power of technology and the voice it provides. We may not always agree, but conversation and communication are good even if social media is sometimes messy and noisy.

Twitter might be explained best by Bakhtin when he described dialogism in The Dialogic Imagination. A tweet could be considered  “a part of a greater whole–there is a constant interaction between meanings, all of which have the potential of conditioning others.” (426). The retweet, the reply, the quote– Twitter is a rich and diverse conversation. The greater whole for The White House, POTUS and any politician is to keep the potential alive with open dialogue.

And, plus, Twitter allows you to also eavesdrop and enjoy banter between a current President and a former President:

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Live from the Global Village: Live streaming with Value

April 18, 2015

In the past couple of weeks I have monitored the live streaming applications MeerKat and Periscope. Each time I click on a live stream–I am never sure what I will end up watching–sometimes it’s interesting and sometimes I think regular people should not be allowed to have smart phones. Marshall McLuhan explained the global village: As electrically […]

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Is it about What you Say or Who you Are?: Challenging the Public and Private sphere in the Digital Age

March 31, 2015

The recent events at The University of Oklahoma and the Hillary Clinton emailgate controversy is a teaching moment for everyone who uses technology to communicate. Mobile technology creates a vague definition of what is public and what is private. The screens we look at each day keeps us disconnected from what we know to be […]

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#SocialCivics: A Challenge for the Digital Citizen

March 26, 2015

Today, I read an article by the new White House Chief Digital Officer, Jason Goldman (@goldman). His role, he says in his article The Internet, The White House and You (and Me) is,, “to help create more meaningful online engagement between government and American citizens.” Then Goldman asks for the American citizen’s help: Here’s what I would […]

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International Women of Courage Awards: Celebrate Women’s History Month #IWOC

March 22, 2015

How do you celebrate Women’s History Month? You attend the International Women’s Courage Award ceremony at The State Department. On March 6, 2015, I attended the International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State. The State Department folks were very informative and transparent about their goal to engage citizens in new ways. The […]

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West Wing Tour

March 8, 2015

In 2014, during the #SOTUSocial, I took a tour of the White House residence-you know the China room, Blue Room, Green Room, Red Room, East Room, State Dining Room, etc. I also, by chance, saw Bo and Sunny while talking to a Secret Service Agent about the rooms on the first floor.  You can read about my experience […]

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The Road to the White House #SOTUSocial #WHSocial

January 12, 2015

You can apply to attend the #SOTUSocial. Attending the social is an honor and an experience for an American. It’s a privilege to be a #digitalcitizen and to participate in the political process no matter what one’s political beliefs are. The greatest quality about America is the honor to agree to disagree, but to also create […]

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Merging Television and Internet-Two Media Collide and break Twitter

March 8, 2014

This past Sunday, the Oscars blew up Twitter. Yes, Ellen DeGeneres broke Twitter. Why is this significant? Because in only an hour the selfie filled with who is who in Hollywood was retweeted 1 million times. Take a look at the retweets 24 hours later… 3 million!  ABCNews reported: By Monday afternoon, it had been […]

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#Social at the #SOTUSocial–Making the White House Accessible

February 16, 2014

The one part of the White House trip I failed to mention: I was suffering from a BAD COLD! With that in mind, I was not able to socialize as I usually do. I was tired, on lots of cold medicine and just fighting to feel better every minute I was in Washington, D.C.   […]

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