Last summer I had just found Twitter. Twitter is a geektastic networking site wherein friends can keep tabs on each other down to the minute if they want to. I happened to have been traveling in Italy, and Twitter became a great way for me to announce where we were at any given moment: “leaving the airport out of Rome,” or “gliding up the Adriatic on a boat.” We live in an era when people have no excuse to be out of touch. Ever. Even for a moment.
Back in August of ’07, Barack Obama had his Twitter (twitter.com) activated. I was surprised then that any politician could be that geeky, that in touch, that happening. But Barack was. I would get his continual Twitter updates. And though I haven’t checked my Twitter in many months, I just know that when I finally do, there Barack will be, along with a few other reliable updaters, like Reuters. I just signed onto Twitter after so many months, and lo! Reuters had clogged my inbox or whatever you call it. I will have to delete Reuters. But Barack Obama is a follower of MINE! That’s how cool he is. Not only did he get onto Twitter early, but he became buddies with people like me who found him way back when. That, my friends, is a savvy, happening, kinda-now politician.
I have gone back and forth on the Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama thing. I was firmly behind Obama until I saw the debate at the Kodak Theatre, then I was back with Hillary. But when it came time to vote, I gave Obama mine, and part of it, I have to say, is that, for the first time in my lifetime I am backing someone who is smart enough to have caught on to the Twitter thing early, even if it was only some 15-year-old campaign manager doing his bidding.
Okay, so maybe that isn’t much to go on when choosing the next president of our country, but to me it is a broader issue. No, our president might not have to be net savvy to do a good job. But couldn’t it help? We have the greatest communication device ever invented and our future is only headed in that direction. There will never be a point in time (barring complete societal collapse) where we won’t be completely dependent upon the Internet for all things.
Obama’s latest speech, for instance, “A More Perfect Union,” showed up on Twitter, on YouTube, and everywhere else. You don’t have to buy a newspaper or wait for it to come on television or have it interpreted by a news anchor. Clickety click and you’re there. Obama has always known how to work the Internet to his advantage, something neither the GOP nor the other democrats have managed to do. The GOP has Matt Drudge (drudgereport.com) on its side, which is a very powerful tool. Even the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) isn’t anywhere near Drudge in terms of influence and traffic. The opposing candidate has to be as smart and as resourceful.
Funnily enough, Al Gore was one election cycle too early. If he was running today he would be using the net the same way Obama has been using it and that might have given him the edge. George Bush is old school. He got by on connections and on-camera charisma, a necessity post-Kennedy. Obama, as it happens, has lots of charisma and the camera loves him. That might not be enough without the support of the Internet. Unfortunately for Hillary, she would do better in a TV-only voting climate as she too does well on camera, has loads of charisma but, unfortunately, does not have the Internet.
The ugly truth of it is the best and worst traits of human nature are in concentrated form online and sexism is rampant. Even if people argue that Hillary’s campaign this, Hillary’s campaign that, it still seems to come down to pictures of her that distort her appearance. She is reviled on the Internet where most folks are now getting their news.
We don’t know which candidate will get the nomination. But from here on out, politicians are going to have to follow Obama, and the earlier version, Al Gore, and make sure they have the Internet, because television is just so over.