Our first post-media presidency

During the campaign, everyone kept referring to it as Obama’s ground game. Now, mainstream media deride it as Obama’s bully pulpit. In both instances, I think they are missing the point.

Team Obama’s fusion of grassroots and community organizing principles with emerging technology in an effort to connect with voters is much more than that. It will change the political landscape forever. It will change how our elected leaders govern. From now on, it will be much more public and much more about the president and the people, as opposed to the president and the houses of government. It will also change (at least in terms of perception, if not in reality) the level of access voters have to their elected leaders.

Why? Because every political pundit in Washington has had their minds completely blown by the first 60 days of this new president’s administration.

When the stock market tumbled, conventional wisdom dictated the president’s approval ratings would follow. That didn’t happen.

When not one Republican signed onto the original stimulus bill, and they all went parading around the cable new outlets decrying his failure at achieving bipartisanship, the logical conclusion should have been eroding public confidence in the president. Still, it didn’t happen.

When the AIG bonus scandal hit the fan and sent even some of the most historically corporate-friendly conservatives into an amnesia-fueled populist rage, it was thought that surely the public would begin to lose faith and start wagging their fingers at Obama. And still, that didn’t happen.

Instead, he has had remarkably consistent approval ratings — in the 60s, give or take a point, since the day he took office.

Obama’s “ground game” is a 21st-century world view. He realizes he does not necessarily need to rely on a television or a newspaper to connect with voters. He also realizes he does not need to have his message retold and recast by reporters.

The media no longer exists in the same way it did for George Bush or Bill Clinton. Today, with all the diversity of outlets and perspectives and distributions, media simply means a medium for getting your message across. And Obama has mastered it.

The newspaper headlines keep coming. Is this the end of the Obama honeymoon? No. maybe this is. No, wait, this is it. But it doesn’t seem to matter. No longer is the mainstream media the only way of getting a political message across; It does not even appear to be Obama’s preferred way of getting that message across.

Thursday morning, Obama hosted a virtual town hall, paring down nearly 100,000 questions into as many as he could address in about an hour. On Wednesday, he held a prime time press conference. Then, he steered questions to new media outlets, which is pretty much unprecedented. In addition, he has branched out from the typical Washington Press Corps to include various ethnic media outlets.

Last week, he took his “outside the beltway” game to cash-strapped California, appearing before millions of Americans on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The day before that, it was yet another town hall in Orange County.

He’s only been in office a few months, and he’s governed almost as much from the road as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did campaigning for the presidency.

That’s why his approval ratings don’t fluctuate with the headlines. That’s why he will likely continue to take the tough issues directly to the American people.

These are grave times. Americans want to connect with their president. They want to understand what is being done and why. They want to know he is on the job and not holed up with Dick Cheney in Crawford, Texas. As long as he doesn’t try to sell me economic recovery steak knives, it’s all good.

Devona Walker is TheLoop21.com’s senior reporter/blogger. She writes the Post-Race? blog.

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