Winning isn't Everything–Information is

by francine Hardaway on October 2, 2008

Technology changes everything. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

I’m sitting here waiting for the Palin-Biden debate to start, and thinking about how this election is so different from any other during my nearly half century of watching America choose a president. And believe me, it’s different. Not bccause of the credit crisis, the decline in the American standard of living, or the seemingly constant and multiple wars in which we’re involved (remember the “peace dividend,” what happened to THAT?), or even because we have a black nominee for president and a woman nominee for vice president. Those make the election important, but not different.

No, it’s because we are finally beginning to capitalize on the global distribution system of the internet to transmit information to voters and would-be voters on an instantaneous basis. From clips of candidates contradicting themselves that can be found on YouTube, to web sites like, we have begun to remove the bullshit from politics. It is no longer possible for a candidate to blatantly lie, as poor John McCain as done repeatedly, either inadvertantly or purposefully, and not get called out. (Latest example: saying he’s consulted Sarah Palin for foreign policy advice many times: he had only met her twice before he selected her) Little white lies, the stuff of politicans who “spin” truth so you won’t know it when you see it, are having to go away.That applies to both parties.

We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting closer to transparency in government. The entire bailout bill has been posted on line. Every padded piece of pork is visible now. Gone are the days of secret deals. We now know that the bailout bill, now called the “rescue” bill, will cost an extra $150 billion in pork, or earmarks, or whatever nomenclature you want to use for the stuff that got added to it in order to wrangle enough votes for it to pass. That would have never been possible in the past, open for instant analysis by pundits, journalists, and you and me. We now know exactly how these compromises occur, and exactly how legislation is passed, and exactly how little “the good of the country” matters to people in Washington running for re-election.

In case you suffer from limited attention span, and you weren’t willing to give 90 minutes to the Obama-McCain debate, a flurry of activity on Twitter could have kept you informed even if you were on Safari in Kenya. You can see both the entire debate and clips from it all over the internet. You can also see clips of every candidates’ personal appearances on the campaign trail, and comparisons of what they said last week, last year, or last stop with what they are saying now.

For better or for worse, Sarah Palin has been characterized by her performance on Katie Couric. Never mind that Katie has the smallest audience of any network news station. Never mind that only a small part of the population even watches network news anymore (who’s home at 6 PM?) Everyone has seen those clips and heard those answers. They’ve formed their opinions. I’m not sure the media has been unbiassed, and I’m not sure the clips are fairly edited. I’m only saying that a larger, faster global distribution system has changed the character of this race.

And no amount of “talking points,” can put this genie back in the bottle. The customer controls the brand now, and the politician (the brand) can’t just sling them at the customer (the voter) anymore. Gone are the days when an FDR can hide the fact that he’s paralyzed, a Kennedy can hide the fact that he’s a philanderer, and Sarah Palin can hide the fact that she’s not ready.

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