Going back to before Dean For America, I was hoping that, with the advent of the Internet, the economics of elections would change. I got close to the Dean people, but they either didn't see the possibility, or felt it was too early, or felt they couldn't afford to be an experimental campaign.
But with Occupy Wall Street, it would be wholly inconsistent to use their presence on the Internet to raise money to buy ads on television. If they did that, we would need to start an OOWS to occupy them.
Look at all the attention this leaderless movement has managed to draw to itself, without any kind of a media budget. And I have a feeling this is just beginning. Hopefully we will build decentralized communication networks that allow ideas to be distributed instantaneously without being controlled by Time-Warner, News Corp, Comcast, or even Google, Twitter or Facebook. Of course we already have the technology, it's just what the Internet already does. But we have to build a critical mass outside the corporate silos to have the independence we'll need, imho.
If the economics of politics were really changing now, it would be a predictable part of the usual technology cycle, written about here many times. First with a new technology the users need training wheels. Limits that make it easy to approach. For that you need companies. But their utility diminishes as two processes converge:
1. New people come of age, to whom the technology is natural. They don't have to unlearn an old way of doing things. And other users gain experience. What was once strange and different is now normal and familiar.
If politics has changed, it's now in the domain of tech, completely. You won't use the web to raise money to buy television ads. Instead, money raised on the Internet will stay in the Internet, helping to build the communication systems we need not just to get candidates elected, but also to govern. Obama could have figured this out, but he didn't.
In the new politics, you campaign 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, world wide. The American president has to communicate with citizens of India, Malaysia, China, Russia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America, not just the people in the 50 states. Public opinion is now a world wide force. And communication isn't just getting your message out. If Obama had been listening he might have heard that many of us trust the Republicans a lot less than he did. He might have had a better feel for the crisis happening with users of real estate, not just developers and financiers.
It was naive of the President to think that, once elected, he could ensconce himself in the gridlock and somehow his charm would overcome Republican barriers. They weren't charmed by him, and they saw his reliance on charm as a weakness, and took advantage of it. Had Obama kept his army of discourse mobilized, developed it, we would be able to now tell him exactly what to do to get us out of the ditch he drove us into.
Instead, as usual, he's focused on raising money so he can buy TV ads to get re-elected. This does us, you and me, absolutely no good. They never get around to following the lead of the voters. They have no way to hear the voters, yet. But I think that's what OWS could lead to.
BTW, I saw an ad on the web yesterday for Google Ads that said a good ad is just information. Glad they finally got around to that. The next step, for them is to realize (if they don't already realize it) that their search engine and ad engine are in direct conflict. The better search is the less people need ads. Google's future, if it all shakes out as it should, is as limited as the advertising-based political industry.
PPS: Of course I was also thinking of the absolutely beautiful little girl with the hand-drawn Tax The Rich banner. There's so much love in that image!