New Media – Challenge and Opportunity

December 11, 2007 on 12:17 pm

In The American Independent, we cited the decline of the national parties, the rise of special interest groups and the fractionating of the national media as the most notable phenomenon in today’s presidential politics. Of these, the last is perhaps the most challenging…precisely because of the breadth of opportunity it offers each of us to participate and engage in the process. And this goes double for the Independent.

Previously, the Independent was left with three national networks, a favorite newspaper or weekly magazine, and two national parties, neither of which he or she claimed or cared to. Today, the engaged Independent has virtually the same access to information as any partisan, and can actively participate in the debate and electoral process through a host of blogs and websites. The practical barriers to information and participation are these; the will to engage, access to the web, and the speed of light. That’s it.

William Powers of the National Journal develops this point in his December 7 article “What Horse Race?” Citing the explosion of news sources in the last 15 years and today’s extended campaigns, there is ample opportunity for the citizenry to inform itself and plenty of opportunity for candidates to move up and down in the polls. In this we are all saved from the self-fulfilling prophecies of old media’s tendency to pick a winner and then see him or her through to the finish line. In Powers words:

The final shift brought on by old and new media is the dilution of the old establishment media’s power and influence. If the mainstream media were ever in a position to orchestrate the horse race — and to some extent, they once were — those days are over. The race is now controlled from below, by the various constituencies that coalesce — or not — around candidates as they emerge in the public consciousness through the kaleidoscope of digital media.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Franklin was asked by a Mrs. Powell “What sort of government have you given us, Doctor?” “A Republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.” Well, we remain so challenged to this day, i.e., to keep it. And that means all of us, because that’s the way it works best. Independents have never had greater access to the process. It is up to each of us to engage and use it.


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