Keep it Personal

First Stop Iowa
First Stop Iowa

I learned tonight that one of the very compelling stories about the recent US presidential election was only half a story.

The way it was often portrayed was that Obama had either used grass-roots organisationsor online social networks like Facebook to mount the basis for his campaign.

I learned tonight the Obama Campaign also made 60-million “personal contacts”, mostly over the telephone, as a follow up to people joinging online groups.

Tonight Andrew and I went to see the documentary of, “First Stop Iowa” made by the Sydney-based “journalism couple”, John Barron and Rebecca Glen.

I’ve known John for several years, and Rebecca less so. I’ve known, however, both have an interest in the political process. And with a US election in the winds, they decided to travel back and forth to America to make a documentary about the election, and why, in particular, small states like Iowa are so important.

They’ve located the history of why in the 1968 assassinations of King and Kennedy, and the decision soon afterwards by the Democrats to re-organise the way in which they selected candidates for President.

What I found most surprising (and quite heartening) was the role personal contact still plays in American politics. Even though they spend hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars on the campaign for President, it mostly still comes down to personal contact, was the essential argument of the film.

That’s why, they argued Obama, Clinton, Biden and others went to the Iowa State Fair (and why Obama took his family on the dodgem cars). And that’s why everyone online registration was followed up with a phone call.

On a more systemic level, the documentary also explained how the nomination process often comes down to a group of people in a room “swapping sides” if their candidate fails to gain a 15% quota.

Like most things these days, it could have done with a bit of a chop here and there, but mostly it was a really interesting insight into a political process that’s both similar and different to our own.

Loved it!

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