I think something pretty amazing may be happening with our political process that mirrors what’s happening on the Internet, in the blogosphere. I’ve been talking about it on and off since the Howard Dean candidacy in 2003, which I think most people misread or misunderstood, seeing it only in the existing context of how it can be used to make a candidate more competitive in raising money to buy ads to run on TV. Perhaps that’s what was going on from the candidates’ point of view, but it was not what was going on from our side of the tube. What was happening was we were flexing our political muscles using a new tool for organizing, the Internet. We were waking up, saying Hello World to the candidates. One of them heard us, Dean, although he misunderstood what we were saying.
It’s as if we, collectively were tapping a microphone and tentatively asking “Is this thing on?”
Let’s summarize what’s happened so far in the 2008 political process.
1. We had a long run-up of a year or so, with candidate debates, lots of punditry, two front-runners, one in each party, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.
2. The Democrats outraised the Republicans for the first time in a long time. Obama actually raised more money than Clinton did.
3. Huckabee, a candidate who raised little money, and who was never considered a front-runner, won the Iowa caucus on the Republican side. Money didn’t choose the winner in Iowa for the Republicans.
4. McCain, a candidate who in the end spent very little money and had almost no organization, who had long since been forgotten as a front-runner, won the Republican primary in New Hampshire. Again, money didn’t choose the winner in NH for the Republicans.
Now, in the aftermath of New Hampshire, the pundits on TV, most notoriously Chris Matthews on MSNBC, are quickly snapping back with new crazy theories on why what happened happened, but we shouldn’t believe them or pay much attention, because they don’t see what’s happening in the electorate. Neither does Clinton, but the Republicans may be beginning to get a clue (and Clinton will soon too).
My belief: The electorate is waking up. Maybe it’s just my hope speaking. Can’t tell yet. 🙂
The electorate doesn’t need messages, just as Doc says there is no demand for messages. What the electorate needs is to hire someone to lead us for the four years between elections. It needs someone who will ground our collective behavior in something resembling reality, so we deal with the problems that are collectively in front of us: 1. The honor and prestige of our country (the equivalent of goodwill for companies, settle the wars we started, accept that we have to protect against terrorism, stop hyping it in terms of conventional warfare, that’s insulting). 2. The integrity of our homes (everything from disaster response to changing behavior on a global level to respond to global warming). 3. Caring for ourselves (health, education, protecting the Constitution).
We’ve gone crazy in the last seven years. The 2004 election was amazingly crazy. The candidates appeared to be running for President of Iraq, that’s all they talked about, what was good for the people of Iraq. The lunacy of the electorate is that we didn’t throw it back in their faces saying “Let us know when you have something to say about the USA.”
We need to communicate with each other and with the pols and pundits without going through the polling process. When they quote blogs on TV they’re quoting people who used to be print columnists who now publish on the Internet. That changes nothing.
I’m not expecting very much from people who live “Inside the Beltway.” I don’t live there, never have, don’t even like visiting the place. To me it’s much like the arrogance of Silicon Valley. You can’t pop out every four years get us to vote for you and then go back into your nest. Politics belongs to all of us, in this country, the people are the government. We really lost our way, now it’s time to come back. It’s the change that’s happening in everything, decentralization, disintermediation. Obama speaks of a plurality, his campaign isn’t about a mere election, it’s about changing the way we do things.
My advice to candidates going back to Dean was and is to start implementing the change you seek before the election, while you have the full attention of the electorate. Ask us to give money, not to buy ads, but to buy health insurance for 50,000 uninsured people in a particular state, so we can see how powerful we are collectively, how we can do good, starting right now. We yearn for this, to feel our muscles flex collectively, and individually to make a difference, not just in your hype, but in real terms. Hillary Clinton could have gotten up yesterday and said “There’s no time to waste. We can’t wait until January 2009 to solve the problems. Let’s start right now.”
Maybe she won’t get elected, but getting us organized now would make it more likely.
JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
See how that works??
I ordered ten red pens but they sent ten dozen. Oy.
Flickr: My election return desktop.
Brian Bailey: Bloomberg wins New Hampshire.
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Podcasting News: Podcasting comes to TiVo.