Thursday, June 28, 2007

The new media and politics

Mother Jones has an interview up with Glenn Reynold about the effect of new media on politics today. Instapundit has some interesting things to say about how politics and the way it is being covered is changing due to blogs.
MJ: What is the most exciting new use of technology in politics?

GR: I think it's the way things get covered that wouldn't normally get covered. For example, John Edwards spoke in Nashville yesterday and several bloggers covered it and they posted video and they posted photos on Flickr. You can actually learn a lot more about that speech there than you can from even the coverage in the Nashville papers, much less the national papers, which pretty much ignored it. The next thing people are going to do, and campaigns can do this some, is start aggregating some of that coverage on a daily basis so that you can go to the campaign's web site and follow this stuff. But I think we're going to see blogs come into their own as a true reporting medium between now and the election.
Of course, you still need people to go these sites and actually look at their videos and read their comments. The audience is probably still pretty small for that sort of thing.

I think we have seen these past few weeks the way that blogs are changing politics. Bloggers working together with talk radio and cable TV were able to rouse people over the immigration bill. People were angry and they picked up their phones and inundated Capitol Hill to express their ire. The result was the resounding defeat for the immigration bill today. I don't think anyone predicted that it would go down so decisively.

The Senators might not have liked having their phone lines tied up with their constituents but that's the business that they're in - representing people. And a majority of them clearly got the message about this one bill.

This was not Astroturf lobbying. This wasn't a group of people being prodded to send in a post card or an email with the same printed message that some lobbyist wrote for them. This was thousands and thousands of individuals deciding on their own to communicate with their senators. And instrumental in getting people informed about the bill was the new media.

We'll still see bills slipped through without much public outcry, but when it's an issue that people feel strongly about, I think it's going to be a lot harder for politicians to ignore public opinion.

It's ironic - the Founders feared the tyranny of the majority and tried to set up a government where there would be enough brakes in the government to rein in politicians feeling stampeded by the majority of the people. One of those cushions was the apparatus that would elect senators. Originally, senators would be selected in their state legislatures. But in 1913, we ratified the 17th Amendment that established that senators would be popularly elected. Thus, they have to pay attention to all those calls shutting down the Senate switchboard. I wonder if there are some senators who still yearn for those pre-17th Amendment days.

By the way, if you want a peek at the over-the-top hatred there on the left, read some of the comments at the end of the Mother Jones interview with Glenn Reynolds, one of the most mild-mannered and fair bloggers out there. Boy, are they spewing hatred for him. They can't stand the idea that their precious Mother Jones Magazine had a reasonable interview with the Instapundit without taking the opportunity to give him a full proctology exam.

UPDATE: Representative David Obey (D) says today that
"Rush and Sean are just about as important in the scheme of things as Paris Hilton.”
Yeah, sure. Tell that to the supporters of the immigration bill.