Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

If you are running for president, you should have a clue about the Internet

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Originally published on on Tue, 06/17/2008 – 8:58am

As each presidential cycle comes along, the Internet becomes that much more relevant to the campaigns and democracy. In fact, you are reading this essay on one of the “Internets” right now.

When I covered marketing and advertising in the mid-1990s, I wrote about the potential impact of the Internet on the 1996 presidential campaign. We knew that the Internet had great potential, but even then, we could never have seen what it has become 12 years later.

The president gets a sway on who sits on the FCC, and one vital issue before the FCC is “net neutrality,” the basic belief that every Web site has equal footing to be accessed by any Internet user.

We have a race between two major party candidates: Barack Obama, who has used the Internet to raise unimaginable amounts of money from regular people, and John McCain, who professes computer ignorance, “I am a illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all the assistance I can get.”

You can’t blame McCain’s lack of computer experience on his age, because if you do, you will get responses from people around his age (and older) who will e-mail you and show you that you have no idea what you are saying. And it’s OK to admit you don’t know a lot about the Internet, but it seems difficult to believe a long-time sitting U.S. Senator still has no clue. Constituents communicate by e-mail, and the Senator doesn’t?? McCain’s lack of curiosity is much more troubling.

Understanding the Internet should be important to the candidates because potential voters are using the Internet to get information. A Pew survey concluded that 46 percent of Americans have used the Internet for politics including online videos.

According to the survey, 35 percent use sites such as YouTube for online videos; by contrast, in 2004, only 13 percent of adults did so. And they are watching recorded speeches as well as campaign ads.

And to no one’s surprise, young voters are consuming more political online video than older adults, and using the Internet in ways that older adults might not, such as text messages and social-networking sites. According to the survey, 1/3 of all 18-to 29-year-olds used a social-networking site for political activities, such as adding candidates as their friends.

At, if you “Digg the Candidates,” you will see Barack Obama has 18,847 friends vs. John McCain’s 1,893 friends. Obama is clearly more popular, but the contrast shows his supporters are more Internet-friendly as well.

One not-so-nice use of the Internet in the campaign is the spreading of false and negative rumors. Instead of letting those go by unchallenged, the Obama camp, which quite frankly has received the brunt of the rumor mill, has set up (you guessed it) a Web site,, to counterbalance the false rumors.

The fascination from the MSM about the Internet has also led it to play up the rumors on the ‘Net and give them legitimacy, as The Daily Show pointed out last night.

Obama is learning a lesson John Kerry wished he might have learned in 2004. In fact, Kerry has advised Obama to concentrate on his rapid-response operation. “I was as clear as I could be: you don’t let a moment go by unchallenged.”

The next president will have to confront many Internet-related issues: besides net neutrality, there is the desire to increase broadband coverage, especially in rural areas, and the hope to start hard-wiring major cities. As the Internet exponentially grows, the next president has to lead the charge for challenges we aren’t even aware of right now. If you vote for the major parties, you have two choices: Barack “18,847 friends” Obama or John “I am a illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all the assistance I can get” McCain.


Written by democracysoup

June 17, 2008 at 8:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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