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John Ridley Headshot

Politics and the Internet -- We're Not There Yet

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It's almost become a political cliché: every election cycle we're promised that this will be the election cycle when a new movement hoists some man of the people up over the rampart of machine politics and returns the power to the populace.

And what's the engine of the revolution? The internet. The magical digital tether that will unify the masses into a singular, undisputed voice.

That is, when it's not delivering porn or funny homemade videos at broadband speed.

Was it only just 2004 that Howard Dean was going to ride the whole internet phenomenon all the way to the White House? Four years ago, and it seems like the golden age of netroots. And if the 2004 election had ended prior to Iowa the dreams of a mass smattering of the over-hyped might have been realized.

In 2006, there was Ned Lamont running for Senator in Connecticut. That he'd never previously held more than local office... Didn't matter. With fiery anti-war rhetoric and backed by the righteousness of the Net, the self-made cable TV millionaire was going to high speed modem his way right past formerly Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman.

The rest is digital history.

Its 2008. This cycle's phenom is Ron Paul. True, the internet has connected his followers. The internet has helped him raised millions. But that's about all it's done. Nationally Paul's polling at about four percent.

There's no disputing that for Pols the internet is a great way to connect with people and raise some cash and post Sopranos parodies or play your opponents Macaca moments. But in a netroot sense it's pretty useless for getting someone elected.

Problem is; yeah the internet can reach millions of people. But it tends to reach millions of like-minded people. Presently, it's just a great way to preach to the choir. You can get a breadth of support -- witness Paul's millions raised -- but that doesn't guarantee a depth of support.

Old School still trumps new school. A Clinton machine negates Net-based advocacy. And ask Obama if he'd rather have even the most respected blog site singing his praises, or do another tour with Oprah.

Sure, the internet matters. It just can't seal the deal. Not on a big boy playing field. And when people get on me for saying something like that I just look at 'em for a sec, utter "Snakes on a Planeoh oh o," then go about my way.