He goes by many names and fills many roles. Twelve million Americans believe he’s the Lizard-King, the guy in the pick-up you’re stuck behind in traffic declares he is the antichrist, to others too young to really care about politics perhaps he’s simply the guy we thank when anything goes wrong. He’s our commander-in-chief, Barack Obama.
Like it or not, his presidency is coming to an end this year, but in his eight-year tenure he’s left a certain mark on his office, an X-factor which may never be replicated in the same way—he was cool. Some might call it unprofessional for the president to participate in the whirling dervish that is the realm of social media during his presidency, but it’s exactly what he needed to garner public support and what the office needed to evolve.
Taking office, Obama had a number of pressing issues to deal with, including getting our economy back on track and trying to find a solution to our issues in Middle Eastern conflicts. But just as important was making himself seem personable and more like a politician who young people could get behind. And at least in that regard, he was a resounding success.
With the crisis of student debt, a challenging job market and a seemingly massive disconnect between ourselves and our politicians, millennials have a different perspective than previous generations. But unlike the disenfranchised people of the past, we have the means to make ourselves heard through the internet and we expect our president to listen and connect. He did. The president utilized Facebook and Twitter, had an active Youtube page, did live virtual interviews with citizens over Google to answer questions, and even conducted an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. He didn’t just feel like “the president” he felt like “our president”
Obama isn’t just the president anymore, he’s the #POTUS. The use of social media to garner support and promote his policies made Obama, well, cool. Obama didn’t make himself a meme but he rolled with it beautifully, his BuzzFeed video promoting a health care initiative which famously had him say thanks to himself, was controversial sure, but it was undeniably funny and did what he wanted—it generated buzz! He seemed connected to the citizens.
Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post said he “leveraged the opportunities of the digital age to maximum political advantage. But often, this now means speaking narrowly to his base voters or to groups disconnected from the mainstream political process.” I can’t think of a better way to leverage an advantage than to use “Luther,” the comedy persona of comedian Keegan Michael Key, to roast his opponents on live TV.
Obama set a precedent for the presidents of tomorrow, one which requires them to be engaged with the citizens he leads, to answer their questions, to stream, and to adopt humor about themselves instead of rejecting it. Obama went on Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” and got roasted in exchange for an opportunity to promote Obama Care and a year later we had presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoofing Trump on Fallon and Bernie Sanders dancing to Drake on Ellen. Thanks Obama. I think.
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