There’s been a lot of hype lately about the role of the Internet in this and future elections. MoveOn.Org shows the major downside of the Internet — namely that independent political sites gain audience by being on the extremes which is going to be embarassing to candidates who associate with them.
The Republican National Committee, for example, is smartly doing all it can to make a big deal out of the Bush=Hitler ad that was posted to the MoveOn.Org web site and then later pulled. As far as I can tell, this isn’t a case of just some random idiot posting the ad, but rather an editorial decision by someone with MoveOn.Org to post the ad and then later remove it. This is part of MoveOn.Org’s ad contest which is backed up by serious money (including matching funds from George Soros).
The RNC wants all of Democratic candidates for president to renounce the ad. Certainly some Democratic presidential candidates have been more closely associated with MoveOn.Org than others. For example, Howard Dean’s organization actively campaigned to win MoveOn.Org’s endorsement, and called the publicity stunt an example of the best sort of participatory democracy,
We want to thank everyone who helped make this victory possible. To the volunteers and Dean supporters across the country, thanks for all of your work. To the 139,360 who supported me, thanks for casting the first votes to take our country back. You have demonstrated that you really do have the power.
This primary was participatory democracy at its finest. This week’s vote was not about money-other campaigns devoted far more resources to this primary than ours did-and it was not about special interest groups buying access to government. This primary, the first online primary of the modern age, was about individual Americans influencing the process directly. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans researched this race, voted, and told their friends to vote.
You have to wonder if Dean’s going to appreciate being asked about every inane thing that MoveOn.Org comes up with. But his endorsement of MoveOn.Org makes that all-but-inevitable.
Ultimately, Democrats and their supporters seem to have learned nothing at all from the Republican mistakes of the Clinton years. Republicans then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by turning legitimate criticism of the Clinton administration into an irrational, all-consuming hatred of the President which made them look like extremists. The best commentary I’ve heard about Dean yet is that he is not a repeat of McGovern, but rather the second coming of Newt Gingrich.
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