Arianna Huffington was right when she declared the Internet is the true winner of the election last week, but in the spirit of unity and bipartisanship that's sweeping the nation after Obama's victory the next logical question is: When will the new media market evolve to become the more balanced forum of news and analysis that Americans clearly crave? Or let's be more frank: When will the Republicans stop jabbering on talk radio and join the blogosphere to diversify the talking points and conversation?
Criticisms that the left-wing online media machine was leading a disheveled, revenue-challenged MSM in a pro-Obama agenda have some validity, but one could also attribute the (arguable) slant to the fact that conservatives just completely missed this opportunity. Despite promising efforts to harness the energy issue by the "Don't Go" movement early in the Fall, when House Republicans led by Eric Cantor and John Shaddegg embraced their first Twitter hashtag. #dontgo, the Republican presence during the heart of this election season was meager at best -- save the successful (if unconstitutional) "Yes on 8" campaign against Gay marriage in California. The conservative movement was determined to punish John McCain personally, and the McCain campaign message did not match the promise of his highly interactive website.
Liberals may be understandably ecstatic about the influence the blogosphere has had on the election results, but truly thoughtful and responsible citizens should have reservations about the absence of conservative dialogue. It's too easy these days to consume self-reinforcing information, whether it's O'Reilly or Olbermann, Drudge or Daily Kos. If we're going to overcome the existing culture of ideologues to achieve the "change" we seek, it's essential that we educate ourselves beyond our own beliefs.
Republicans and conservatives alike must be willing to define "listening" as the golden rule of 21st Century politics. The party has become beholden to consultants in the hunt for the title of "The Next Karl Rove" rather than putting forward original ideas, policies, and solutions. Micro-targeting has evolved past the successes of 2000 and 2004. The Obama campaign, along with the Left-leaning blogosphere, harnessed the hunger of average voters for real communication. To be relevant, to raise the phoenix from the ashes -- the Republican establishment must eliminate the influence of staffers, consultants, and Rush Limbaugh in favor of new, dynamic voices. Leaders like Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan must join forces with new media and social network conservatives to define the next generation of politicos -- and be competitive with Rahm Emanuel's ground game in 2010 and 2012 from his new perch as Obama's Chief of Staff.
One of the great opportunities in President-elect Obama's Change.gov endeavor is the hope that the internet's connectivity will result in otherwise-insulated citizens of different affiliations finally finding themselves working together on issues because of their participation in online communities. We hope the online lessons from his campaign in terms of community organizing, raising funds, and unifying the efforts of people with shared ideas will be something that leaders of both parties embrace.
The boundaries on maps no longer define access to information. Change.gov invites Americans to tell their story. To interact with their government. Regardless of political persuasion, it is a welcome reminder that unlike anywhere else on earth, We the People matter most.
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