In June of 2007, the political world was just waking up to the idea that individual citizens were going to shake up how political communications was done. As the the race to succeed George W. Bush rolled into its first summer, the Macaca moment was less than a year old, Facebook was just breaking out into the public mind and Twitter only glimmered on the horizon.
But the world had changed: message control was dead, and political professionals’ monopoly on political messaging was eroding away. Why? Because someone with a video camera and a good idea could create this:
Eight years ago, this video was stunning — in 2015, we EXPECT people to comment on politics via every channel at their fingers, but in 2008 even the idea that citizens could directly intervene in the political messaging process hadn’t sunk in. After all, citizen-bloggers had only helped to catapult Howard Dean to prominence four years before, and his campaign arc had ended on a note that was loud but not high.
The Obamagirl video was the forerunner of everything from Mitt Romney’s binders full of women to the new Hillary Clinton font, Hillvetica. Yes, most citizen-generated media rapidly-forgotten drivel…like almost everything on cable news. But some pieces of content created or captured by everyday citizens DO score a hit — just ask Romney about the 47%.
Obamagirl (Amber Lee Ettinger) went on to star in other campaign-related videos, among many media appearances, and the press had a fine time wondering whether the video would detract from Obama’s campaign (hint: it didn’t). Other people got in on the video remix action; my favorite is below. But the Obamagirl’s real importance was as a harbinger of a new kind of politics: one in which the people’s voices aren’t just heard at the polls. Welcome to the new political reality, and thank you for guiding us there, ma’am.