Not going to lie, it was a little weird to read The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House just a few short days after Barack Obama made history. I wanted to like Garrett Graff’s book, but as with so many books about globalization and technology’s potential I found that his work fell short of a truly illuminating discussion.
Of course, part of this may be that on Nov. 4 the work was instantly dated. I believe that, though he made a few missteps along the way, President-Elect Obama’s online presence was far superior to anything Graff talks about in the book. As a testament to just how dated the book already is, Obama is only listed in the index 25 times (for a book that is 290 pages long), where as the Clintons show up over 40 times.
Much of Graff’s book, sadly, now feels irrelevant. Written before the massive economic cluster-fuck downturn, and long before Obama announced Biden as VP via txt message, the book now just reads like more banal advice for the incoming administration. Of course, that might indicate that Graff was on to something, he was right that whoever won online hearts would win offline votes.
I think that President-Elect Obama is taking at least some of the advice noted in Graff’s book, especially when it comes to rethinking our approach to economics and including questions of innovation. I read today that his transition team will include Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy. While two tech company CEOs does not innovation make, I think that both companies have managed to evolve with the changing face of the US economy rather than fight it (too much). I also think this is a good sign that President Obama will turn to people who are at the top of their field and not exactly Washington-insiders though they are nonetheless hugely powerful.
On a personal note, some of my antipathy to Graff and his book might have to do with the fact that he is only two years older than me and doing so much more with his life. Seriously?! You’re under 30 AND you’ve already worked in the White House, edit a magazine, and have a book? OH AND YOU TEACH AT MY UNIVERSITY?! I’ll save the colorful language but I will say that it makes grad school look like a waste of my time… Excuse me while I go hyperventilate and revise my CV (again).
Well, I don’t feel too bad– the site listed on the flap for “updates,” www.thefirstcampaign.com, doesn’t seem to be working… Not taking your own advice Graff? Sorry. That was a cheap shot.