My very last classmate response blog goes to Shari, who is no doubt about to pass out from the excitement of this great honor.  Since she was the first person in class I talked to, I figured it only appropriate to end this portion of my blog talking about hers.  I only wish there was some virtual way for the two of us to share an international flavored coffee as we celebrate this milestone.  Maybe in Web 3.0? 

I will admit that I’ve been a little conflicted about some of the things we’ve talked about in class.  Well, not conflicted, exactly, but hesitant to embrace Web 2.0 as fully as some others (Garrett) have.  I definitely understand the hugely important role the Internet and other “wired” applications play in everyone’s daily lives.  I also agreed with Garrett’s comment that those who refuse to embrace Web 2.0 will end up looking a lot like those who rejected electricity. 

Yet , something Shari wrote in her latest blog posting reminded me of my conflicted feelings, especially as our discussion grew more political.  Responding to a story about Hillary Clinton not following anyone on Twitter, compared to the 23,000 Barack Obama “follows,” Shari said “he must have a lot of time on his hands.”  In just one line, she managed to sum up my thoughts on Web 2.0 and political campaigns. 

It’s no secret that I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter.  I was either annoyingly precocious or amazingly nerdy as a child.  I was the only first grader with a Mike Dukakis pin stuck to the front of my jacket and four yeras later, during the ’92 campaign, I begged my dad to take me to a Clinton rally.  I was 10-years-old and too big for piggy backs, but I somehow persuaded him to hoist me on his shoulders so I could better see Bill, Hillary, Al and Mario Cuomo, who reminded me a lot of my grandpa. 

Hillary, however, reminded me a lot of my mom.  When she later lashed out at Republicans who questioned the non-tradiational role she played in her husband’s campaign, I heard my mother talking.  Both were (and are) smart, fearless women with a feminist sensitivity so inate and so true to their character that it could never be confused with any sort of contrived activism.  

Looking back not at the 2004 campaign, but that 1992 campaign, and contrasting it with the one in which we are currently engaged, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve perhaps lost touch with certain sensabilities in our rush to embrace every new gadget, every new service, every better, faster stronger entity Web 2.0 can produce. 

Has the Internet made us so easily amused that we embrace or reject a political candidate based on the entertainment value of their YouTube video

Has the ability to share every last detail of our lives with a public we can only assume care made us so selfish we embrace or reject a political candidate becuase they don’t indulge that narcacisstic assumption?  

Has the almost infinite amount of information available to us at any moment we may want it made us so impatient that we simply want a Cliff Notes version of everything, packaged in the most exciting way possible? 

The power of the Dean campaign wasn’t just its online stylings, but the substance behind that online activity.  If we forget the two need to go together, we’re just squandering all the potential it provided. 

In another entry I said more people needed to view the world around them with a Technicolor lens.  That includes the onilne world.  I think Web 2.0 is far too immense an entity to say it’s either good or bad for us, or for politics.  I think it’s quite fine to just declare that it might be both and recognize that our task is an ongoing mission to adapt its use for the better and not for the worse.    


Not Sorry For…2004…

April 21, 2008

By the time Howard Dean came to national prominence, I was entirely sick of George W. Bush’s “wartime leader” pretensions.  I found it hard to believe that the mainstream media barely scrutinized the almost comical absurdity of someone who’d spent the Vietnam era in Texas, the silver spoon he was born with firmly up his nose instead of in his mouth, heroically landing on an aircraft carrier to celebrate the resolution of a war that was clearly not over, and which he started himself.  I doubt the 19th century press would have credited Lincoln with saving the Union if he’d fired the first shot on Fort Sumter  But, I digress.

What I most admired about Howard Dean was his boldness.  His leadership on the gay-marriage issue was courageous, and at a time when mainstream politicians of both parties pussyfooted (emphasis mine) around Iraq, Dean’s opposition to the invasion was brave and much-needed.

If Barack Obama deserves applause for his alleged opposition to the war at a time he was a politician of no real consequence whose opinion no one yet cared about, then Dean deserves a standing ovation for opposing it as a presidential contender whose opinions a large segment of the population was still ready to Dixie Chick him over.

I don’t think it entirely off-base to suggest that Dean’s opposition opened the door to serious debate about the Administration’s lies and mistakes before, during and after major combat operations in Iraq, but I will admit that Howard Dean was the first candidate to really make me feel like I was a part of something.  I could be a little biased.  I was 18-years-old when I gave my very first presidential vote to Al Gore and was almost as disillusioned by the media’s ridiculous treatment of “the scream” as I had been with the Supreme Court after that first vote.

But I think there’s something to be said for the argument that Dean’s loss was everyone’s win, if in fact his legacy proves to be a lesson in how modern technology can again make the political process mean something to everyone.  If young people used to being treated as props by campaigns who want to “protect them” have a way to be a part of real political conversation online, it has much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.  If union members used to being treated as props by campaigns who want to “protect them” have a way to “meetup” and find a candidate who knows traditional industry has a place in a global economy, it has much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.

Most importantly, perhaps, if we ever have the opportunity to sit at home in our underwear, filling out our presidential ballots with a few tabs and a couple mouse clicks while telling Diebold to suck it, it will have much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.