Why Taking the White House Online Does Not Make It More Accessible To The Public

By Leah C. Campbell
2015, Vol. 7 No. 02 | pg. 4/4 |

Conclusion

President Obama has worked tirelessly to advance the use of internet to engage the public in , however the nature of the office and the long-standing security commitments thereafter are as of yet not compatible with the tremendous level of direct communication made possible by and the like.

In order for the federal government to have an impactful digital presence, sites like whitehouse.gov/engage need better design and regulation. Government webpages face many of the same critiques as the immensely troubled healthcare.gov whose repeated crashes and inability to host the quantity of users for which it was designed cost the Obama administration public support of the Affordable Care Act as a whole. These sites can’t stand up to the technology provided by private companies or indeed those used by President Obama’s own campaigns. A 2013 New York Times article asked,

“So why is it that the technology available to Mr. Obama as president doesn’t compare to the technology he used to win an election? Much of the problem has to do with the way the government buys things. The government has to follow a code called the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which is more than 1,800 pages of legalese that all but ensure that the companies that win government contracts, like the ones put out to build HealthCare.gov, are those that can navigate the regulations best, but not necessarily do the best job.”33

Contracting companies is wrought with problems because contractual negotiations are so heavily restricted. Yet having in-house web development teams is problematic as well. Salaries in public office are notoriously uncompetitive, especially compared to those offered by political campaigns making more money than ever before in the Super-PAC era. A slowly growing economy only compounds the pressure for young talented computer science professionals to continue turning to corporate behemoths like Google and Apple instead of public service careers with lengthy and invasive interview and screening processes.

The federal government faces multiple challenges towards achieving success in the digital realm, but the potential dividends cannot be ignored. Cynicism dominates the conversation among voters and increasing meaningful public engagement is one of the few ways to increase voter trust in a time of intense bipartisanship and congressional gridlock. President Ford utilized the Office of Public Liaison to increase public trust and transparency in his administration and President Obama attempted to do the same in governing through the Office of Public Engagement.

Effectively using Internet technology and social media were essential components in candidate Obama’s victories over established politicians in 2008. Logically he has tried in various capacities to apply those successes to his administration but at present, the Executive Office is incompatible with the demands of a 21st century media strategy.


References

Ayandele, Bim. “Helping Launch the White House Office of Public Engagement” Winner & Associates, an MSL Group Company. Last updated 2009. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.winnerandassociates.com/reflections2.aspx

"Be a Part of the Next Four Years," YouTube video, 3:14, Posted by "The White House," upload January 19, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl8pgMSZvHc

Carr, David. “How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ .”New York Times. November 9, 2008. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/10/business/media/10carr.html?_r=0

CNN. “Election Tracker 2008: Fundraising” Last modified October 15, 2008. http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/map/fundraising/ Accessed December 1, 2014.

Cogburn, Derrick L. and Fatima K. Espinoza-Vasquez. “From Networked Nominee to Networked Nation: Examining the Impact of Web 2.0 and Social Media on Political Participation and Civic Engagement in the 2008 Obama Campaign.” Journal of Political Marketing 10(2011). 189-213 Accessed November 17, 2014. doi: 10.1080/153.77857.2011.540224

FactCheck. “Average Campaign Contributions” Last modified July 15, 2008. http://www.factcheck.org/2008/07/average-campaign-contributions/ Accessed December 1, 2014.

Fox, Zoe. “The Digital Smackdown: Obama 2008 vs. Obama 2012.” Mashable. September 23, 2012. http://mashable.com/2012/09/23/obama-digitial-comparison/ Accessed December 1, 2014.

Future Thinking. “The knowledge to change our world for good” CNN. Last updated November 6, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141105-the-knowledge-to-do-good

Gallup. “Presidential Approval Ratings -- .” Last updated November 23, 2014. http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx accessed December 1, 2014.

Greiling Keane, Angela. “Obama, Criticized in U.S., Promotes Open Government” Bloomberg. Last updated September 24, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-24/obama-criticized-in-u-s-promotes-open-government.html

Harris, Heather E., Kimberly R. Moffitt, and Catherine R. Squires. The Obama Effect, Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign. New York: State University of New York Press, 2010.

Hansell, Saul. “Data.gov: Unlocking the Federal Filing Cabinets” The New York Times Bits Blog. May 22, 2009. Accessed December 1,2014. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/datagov-unlocking-the-federal-filing-cabinets/?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A9%22%7D

Hunt, Karen M., and Charles E. Walcott. Empowering the White House: Governance Under Nixon, Ford, and Carter (Studies in Government and Public Policy) Kansas: University Press in Kansas, 2004.

Itkowitz, Colby. “Michael Brown petition has 100,000 signatures; the White House must respond” Washington Post. August 20, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/wp/2014/08/20/michael-brown-petition-has-100000-signatures-the-white-house-must-respond/

Jacobs, Lawrence R. “The Privilege of Access: Interest Groups and the White House.” in The Obama Presidency, Appraisals and Prospects, ed Bert A. Rockman et al. (Washington: CQ Press, 2012), 149-170.

Johnson, Clay and Harper Reed, “Why the Government Never Gets Tech Right Getting to the Bottom of HealthCare.gov’s Flop” The New York Times, October 24, 2013, Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/opinion/getting-to-the-bottom-of-healthcaregovs-flop.html

Kirkpatrick, Marshall. “Data.gov Now Live; Looks Nice But Short on Data.” ReadWrite. May 21, 2009. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://readwrite.com/2009/05/21/datagov_finally_launches_looks_nice_but_short_on_d

Nakamura, David, “The right to petition the White House prompts grievances, gags online” Washington Post, December 9, 2009, Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-right-to-petition-the-white-house-prompts-grievances-gags-online/2012/12/09/c9adf3fc-3f10-11e2-ae43-cf491b837f7b_story.html

National Security Archives. “President Obama embraces openness on day one, as urged by the National Security Archive and a coalition of more than 60 organizations.” Last updated January 21, 2009. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20090121/

Pika, Joseph A. “The White House Office of Public Liaison” Presidential Studies Quarterly 39(3) 2009: 549-573. Accessed December 1, 2014. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2009.03690.x.

Sharp, Adam. “100 Senators and the 57th Inauguration.” Twitter Blog. January 18, 2013. https://blog.twitter.com/2013/100-senators-and-57th-inauguration Accessed December 1, 2014

Snead, John T. “Social media use in the U.S. Executive branch” Government Information Quarterly 30(2013): 58. Accessed December 1, 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2012.09.001

Stone, Peter H., “Friends After All.” National Journal 26(43) 1994. Accessed December 1, 2014. doi: 02133013/200320271.

The White House, “Open Government Working Group” Last updated 2014, accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/about/working-group

The White House. "The President’s Statement on Net Neutrality." Last modified November 10, 2014. < http://www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality >.

Zeleny, Jeff. “For a High-Tech President, a Hard-Fought E-Victory.” The New York Times. January 22, 2009. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/us/politics/23berry.html


Endnotes

1.) The White House, "The President’s Statement on Net Neutrality," The White House Office of Public Engagement, Last modified November 10, 2014, < http://www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality >.

2.) Joseph A. Pika, “The White House Office of Public Liaison,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 39(3) 2009: 555, Accessed December 1, 2014, doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2009.03690.x.

3.) Karen M. Hunt and Charles E. Walcott, Empowering the White House: Governance Under Nixon, Ford, and Carter (Studies in Government and Public Policy) (Kansas: University Press in Kansas, 2004), 90-91.

4.) Hunt and Walcott, Empowering the White House, 91

5.) Lawrence R. Jacobs, “The Privilege of Access: Interest Groups and the White House,” in The Obama Presidency, Appraisals and Prospects, ed Bert A. Rockman et al. (Washington: CQ Press, 2012), 155.

6.) Jacobs, “The Privilege of Access” 160.

7.) Peter H. Stone, “Friends After All,” National Journal 26(43) 1994, Accessed December 1, 2014, doi: 02133013/200320271.

8.) David Carr, “How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power,”New York Times, November 9, 2008, accessed December 1, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/10/business/media/10carr.html?_r=0

9.) Heather E. Harris, Kimberly R. Moffitt, and Catherine R. Squires, The Obama Effect, Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign, (New York: State University of New York Press, 2010,) 57.

10.) Harris, Moffitt and Squires, The Obama Effect, 71

11.) CNN. “Election Tracker 2008: Fundraising” Last modified October 15, 2008. http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/map/fundraising/ Accessed December 1, 2014.

12.) FactCheck, “Average Campaign Contributions,” Last modified July 15, 2008, http://www.factcheck.org/2008/07/average-campaign-contributions/ Accessed December 1, 2014.

13.) Harris, Moffitt and Squires, The Obama Effect, 81

14.) Zoe Fox, “The Digital Smackdown: Obama 2008 vs. Obama 2012” Mashable, September 23, 2012, http://mashable.com/2012/09/23/obama-digitial-comparison/ Accessed December 1, 2014.

15.) Adam Sharp, “100 Senators and the 57th Inauguration” Twitter Blog, January 18, 2013, https://blog.twitter.com/2013/100-senators-and-57th-inauguration Accessed December 1, 2014.

16.) Carr, “How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power”

17.) Derrick L. Cogburn and Fatima K. Espinoza-Vasquez, “From Networked Nominee to Networked Nation: Examining the Impact of Web 2.0 and Social Media on Political Participation and Civic Engagement in the 2008 Obama Campaign,” Journal of Political Marketing 10(2011): 199, Accessed November 17, 2014, doi: 10.1080/15377857.2011.540224

18.) Jeff Zeleny, “For a High-Tech President, a Hard-Fought E-Victory” The New York Times, January 22, 2009, accessed December 1, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/us/politics/23berry.html?_r=0

19.) Cogburn and Espinoza-Vasquez, “From Networked Nominee, to Networked Nation” 207.

20.) Gallup, “Presidential Approval Ratings -- Barack Obama” Last updated November 23, 2014. http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx accessed December 1, 2014.

21.) John T. Snead, “Social media use in the U.S. Executive branch” Government Information Quarterly 30(2013): 58, Accessed December 1, 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2012.09.001

22.) Snead, “Social media use in the U.S. Executive branch” 58.

23.) National Security Archives, “President Obama embraces openness on day one, as urged by the National Security Archive and a coalition of more than 60 organizations,” Last updated January 21, 2009. Accessed December 1, 2014, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20090121/

24.) The White House, “Open Government Working Group” Last updated 2014, accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/about/working-group

25.) Marshall Kirkpatrick, “Data.gov Now Live; Looks Nice But Short on Data,” ReadWrite, May 21, 2009, accessed December 1, 2014, http://readwrite.com/2009/05/21/datagov_finally_launches_looks_nice_but_short_on_d

26.) Saul Hansell, “Data.gov: Unlocking the Federal Filing Cabinets” The New York Times Bits Blog, May 22, 2009, accessed December 1,2014, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/datagov-unlocking-the-federal-filing-cabinets/?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A9%22%7D

27.) Future Thinking, “The knowledge to change our world for good” CNN, November 6, 2014, Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141105-the-knowledge-to-do-good

28.) Angela Greiling Keane, “Obama, Criticized in U.S., Promotes Open Government” Bloomberg, September 24, 2014, accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-24/obama-criticized-in-u-s-promotes-open-government.html

29.) Bim Ayandele “Helping Launch the White House Office of Public Engagement” Winner & Associates, an MSL Group Company, Last updated 2009, accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.winnerandassociates.com/reflections2.aspx

30.) Colby Itkowitz, “Michael Brown petition has 100,000 signatures; the White House must respond” Washington Post, August 20, 2014, Accessed December 1, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/wp/2014/08/20/michael-brown-petition-has-100000-signatures-the-white-house-must-respond/

31.) "Be a Part of the Next Four Years," YouTube video, 3:14, Posted by "The White House," upload January 19, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl8pgMSZvHc

32.) Nakamura, David, “The right to petition the White House prompts grievances, gags online” Washington Post, December 9, 2009, Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-right-to-petition-the-white-house-prompts-grievances-gags-online/2012/12/09/c9adf3fc-3f10-11e2-ae43-cf491b837f7b_story.html

33.) Clay Johnson and Harper Reed, “Why the Government Never Gets Tech Right Getting to the Bottom of HealthCare.gov’s Flop” The New York Times, October 24, 2013, Accessed December 1, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/opinion/getting-to-the-bottom-of-healthcaregovs-flop.html

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