Since I arrived at the University of Southern California and began doing research with Professor Elizabeth Garrett of the USC Gould School of Law, I have focused on campaign finance and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions altering the campaign finance landscape. In light of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which prevents the government from restricting independent campaign expenditures by corporations and unions, I began to analyze the impact that the Court’s decision would have on small donations to political campaigns.
As I delved further into this research topic, I became fascinated by the critical role of small donations to Obama’s presidential campaign—and the Obama campaign in general, which was the largest grassroots campaign in the history of the United States. In particular, I became interested in Obama’s charisma and how he used his charisma to inspire millions of supporters to donate money to his campaign and to vote for him. I also became interested in how Obama used social media sites to build personalized online relationships with supporters. I find it particularly interesting how Obama used his charisma to encourage thousands of supporters to actively campaign for him, and how he used social media to organize his supporters; moreover, the fusion of his charisma and his use of social media resulted in substantial benefits to his campaign, chiefly by giving him the votes necessary to win the 2008 election and helping him raise an unprecedented amount of money to fund his campaign.
Obama’s charisma and use of social media have significant implications for future campaigns. Obama will undoubtedly try to use his charisma to his advantage once again in his 2012 reelection campaign, and given the success of his social media strategy in his 2008 campaign, it will undoubtedly continue to play a role in Obama’s strategy as he embarks on a campaign expected to raise over a billion dollars. Additionally, given Obama’s successful use of social media, rival candidates will undoubtedly try to emulate Obama’s practices in their own campaigns.
I am tremendously excited to be a part of this program, and I look forward to meeting the rest of the Presidential Fellows at the November conference.