My wording here is very deliberate, and I want to explain briefly why. Back in 2000, as a Canadian citizen (with US Green Card), I watched the elections, but didn’t pay all that much attention. At the time, I hoped for Gore to win, but I really liked John McCain and became forever resentful to GWB for his tactics in the primaries. Now, as an American citizen (dual), I paid more attention, but it wasn’t until the announcement of Sarah Palin as running mate that I actually became engaged with politics. As I began my research, both backward into the history of the candidates and in “real-time” dealing with timely issues, I quickly noticed a separation of John McCain, the man who ran for president in 2000 and 2008, and the McCain Campaign.
The McCain Campaign could be described as Rovian, full of attacks, negativity, and hate. It selected Sarah Palin, an ambitious woman who appeals to a segment of America who somehow believe that education, success, and facts are less important than “being gutsy”. Beyond Palin, the McCain Campaign ran ads proclaiming that Obama might be a terrorist, and if he’s not, he certainly pals around with them. Other ads tried to scare Americans into believing Obama wanted to teach our children sex education in kindergarten, has questionable friends and allegiances, and might not be a US citizen. It did more “spin” than a dreidel on the streets of Tel Aviv (is that a metaphor? if not, it should be). For as honorable a man as John McCain appeared to be, it was truly a shameful campaign.
And 8 or 12 years ago, they would’ve got away with it, if not for those meddling kids. Thanks to the Internet, our ability to research and fact-check audacious claims was stronger than ever. In fact, I’d argue that the Internet truly thwarted the McCain Campaign, which was clearly unprepared for the power of blogs (here’s my favorite), twitters, Google and youtube, digg, and social networks.
With the Internet at our hands, we as a nation of individuals were able to rapidly tear through the cleverly woven web of lies. For every claim of “Obama had dinner with Khalidi”, the Internet had an answer, “McCain gave the guy $500K a few years earlier.” And when these claimed attacks were revealed, they affected others by getting them more involved, more engaged, more active.
But the true defeat of the McCain Campaign by the Internet was the simple lack of a campaign. When an attack ad was thwarted, or a debate claim debunked, McCain was rarely found making pro-active remarks. As voters, we were being educated on what Obama was about (or more importantly, not about), but at no point were we given insight into McCain’s positions.
We heard words like maverick, but the Internet gave us voting records.
We were pitched on Palin as a reformed, but the Internet showed us her dubious use of finances in Alaska.
It took less than 20 hours for the Internet to reveal that a woman used a mirror to poorly scratch a backwards B in her face, despite other claims.
The Internet provided us with the information, and the people shared it across countless sites and services. Now don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of lies spread as well (yes, Obama really is a citizen). And I’m not saying Obama’s campaign was completely innocent either, plenty of attacks were made as well. But for the most part Obama’s campaign represented Obama’s positions and politics. Unfortunately for Mr. McCain, the McCain Campaign did not do the same.
Tonight, the senator gave an excellent concession speech. I hope we remember him for his great services and the man he is, not the man his campaign made him out to be.
I also hope our politicians take warning from these results. The era of politicians being able to say one thing while do another is at an end. We the people are tired of the negativity, the fear, and the lies that politicians have perpetrated over the years. The Internet was a major part of this election, and this is only the beginning.
Perhaps this election really demonstrates the emergence of politics 2.0. The ability for the people to participate in ways other than just voting is an amazing development.
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