[NOTE: This post does not necessarily reflect my personal political affiliation]
I got an email from my good friend Shachin this morning:
From: Shachindra Agarwal
Date: Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 8:57 AM
To: Kevin Dahlstrom
A little more than 4 years back in a morning exec meeting, you mentioned Obama and said that this person could be our first black president. That was the first time I heard about him. I could never imagine that he could become the president. It happened…
I have no political expertise whatsoever, so how was I able to predict an Obama presidency after seeing him speak just one time as a freshman Senator? The answer is simple: It was obvious to me that this guy was incredibly marketable.
Obama was the complete package — young, energetic, charismatic — like a JFK for our generation. And what great timing! After 9/11, two wars, and a financial recession, Americans were looking for a purple cow — something different and worth talking about. Obama’s team took advantage of this through a brilliant grass-roots marketing program.
The result was a perfect storm. Obama became more than a candidate — he became the first presidential brand (the “Apple” of presidential politics). People connected to the Obama movement at an emotional level, and once you make that sort of connection, the real issues (healthcare, economy, foreign policy, etc.) become less important. Obama didn’t get two thirds of the under 30 vote (or 95 percent of the African American vote) because his platform was superior. He got that vote because young voters and black voters affiliated with the Obama brand and all it represents.
You could argue that politics has always been marketing-driven. Money buys votes, right? Well, in this election I don’t think all the money in the world could have bought a McCain victory. I suspect that we’ve seen a major turning point in how presidents are elected.