In the aftermath of this historic election a couple of observations are worth making.
First, the need for election reform and how America votes persists. Had the election not gone down in the manner it did, and had Senator McCain not conceded when he did, make no mistake challenges would have ensued. But I’ll leave that for another post. For this one, let me turn attention to the second. So,
Second, I (as apparently others) are hearing quite a bit from jubilant members of the prevailing party that, "The Internet has changed how elections in the U.S. are conducted and work." I disagree.
For all of the useful so-called "Web 2.0" tools the Obama machinery utilized to build a potent support network, the single goal was to raise money. And what was that money used for? It was not to conduct an Internet based campaign, but to fund mainstream media campaign — using print, radio, and television.
A digital democracy portends the ability to interact with candidates, dive as deep as you wish into issues, policies, positions, and track voting records with varying degrees of quality and reliability in resulting data and information.
But the mainstream media simply festers the production and dissemination of untrustworthy, unreliable information.
The problem is, a sizeable portion of America does not rely on the Internet to make their choices, partly b/c they have no inclination, time, or comprehension for anything beyond a sound or video bite. How many continue to believe that President Elect Obama is Muslim, for grief’s sake?
(I could be politically incorrect by suggesting a look at the resulting Electoral Map but my intended point of that there are large tracts of this nation where the Internet is niether a priority nor easily accessible.)
Sure, you can argue that perhaps YouTube and Twitter have opened a migration path, but in the end its simply leveraging digital media to produce… more video, sound, and write bites.
And yes, the Internet has arguably shifted the discourse and has greatly empowered the building of movements, but that, for now, is the outer reach.
My point, more aptly made by Andy Oram of O’Reilly Media, is that the Internet does not rule elections, mainstream media rules elections. Have a look at Andy’s article, it makes my point in more informed detail.