President Barack Obama got on Reddit for a 30 minute Ask Me Anything session and he broke the Internet.
Well, to be honest, Obama didn't break the Internet, but his invitation did create such a stun that the site was temporarily unavailable due to traffic. Our current commander-in-chief took a half hour out of his day to answer questions ranging from the future of space exploration to the recipe for the White House's signature beer, and (my personal favorite) the color of his toothbrush.
I'm not a Reddit person, so the day-to-day activities of the site are usually far back in the periphery of my focus, but I couldn't help but be intrigued by Obama's decision to open up like this. In a way, it was history in the making.
For probably the first time ever, Americans had the same opportunity to get in direct contact with the head of their government. You didn't need to be a congressman, a senator, a lobbyist or even a lucky tourist in D.C.; all that was required was the Internet and a question.
For many, this development means little to nothing, and why should it? Obama's jump to Reddit could be construed as just another ploy made to irk out as many votes as possible as he attempts to repositioning himself as the "hip" candidate against the GOP's Frankenstein-ily stiff Mitt Romney. And in a way he is. Obama has grabbed the attention of CNN, FOX, The Washington Post and The New York Times. If someone looked back at Wednesday night's headlines, they might not even know that the GOP's convention was Tuesday and that Louisiana was in the midst of having a hurricane bombard it once more. He changed the momentum of the news cycle, and all he had to do was post a reference to the "Not Bad Obama" meme.
Obama has upped the ante on a growing historical trend. Ever since the turn of the century, successive commanders-in-chief have steadily made themselves more and more accessible to the populace they govern. This movement gained momentum with F.D.R. and his fireside chats, picked up even more steam with John F. Kennedy's decision to debate Nixon on TV, and seemingly reached its peak with Clinton playing the saxophone on "The Arsenio Hall Show." But Obama has now outdone them all. He's literally made himself available to everyone, and all he had to do was to get on the Internet's ultimate time drain for the same amount of time it takes me to watch a rerun of "Global Guts."
To be honest, I am conflicted on the president's actions. On one hand, I can't help but admire what Obama has done. By opening himself up like this, he has made himself accountable and accessible to the people like no other president before him. He is bucking the trend of the "stuffy, pretentious, high literature-reading speech givers" that our presidents have come to be typified as; he is (for at least one day) a man of the people. While I do admire his accessibility, I can't help but feel uneasy about his approach. What makes this any different from Mitt Romney's wife's humanizing speech about her husband? In both cases, the means can be construed as manipulative and the end goal self-interested. Both want to win this election, and both will do what it takes to secure that office.
Ultimately, this whole debate hinges on the preeminence of likability in our political selection process. Like it or not, our leaders are usually selected because they're affable. Clinton was, Bush was, Obama is and Romney wants to be (why else choose Ryan?).
Obama allowed himself to connect with the people in a historic way on Wednesday, but his motivations for doing so are unclear to me. I don't know if he truly wants to be the people's president, or if he is just trying to be president. But by getting on Reddit, he took a step forward in both directions.
— Preston Peeden is a senior in history. He can be reached at email@example.com.