It’s no secret that Barack Obama took the White House thanks in large part to his campaign team’s Internet savvy. The interactive website, text-message organizing, YouTube channel and all the rest not only spurred people to action; they made Obama seem as accessible to them as their neighbor, their teacher, or their priest.
But campaigns are all about populism—the more people a candidate can connect with, the better. The president, by contrast, is usually cordoned off from the public and hardly ever released to take question; the Bush administration took this secrecy to an extreme. As he looks towards January, will Obama try and bridge the gap between an interactive campaign and the highly managed nature of the presidency?
Sure looks like it. Obama has already launched change.gov, a public interface for his presidency. He still has a YouTube channel, and has pledged to institute an online comment period before singing nonemergency legislation. Though Obama was less available to the press during the campaign than many reporters would have liked, as president he’s pledged to put government business online. Perhaps an overhaul of whitehouse.gov is in the works?
After eight years of dealing with a secretive, inaccessible and often combative executive, it would be more than refreshing to have the exact opposite. If Obama does it right, Americans will feel like their country is theirs again; instead of an announcer for a leader, they’ll have a mouthpiece.
UPDATE: A collection of over 60 open government groups has weighed in on Obama’s plans for transparency, offering 69 specific policy suggestions.