I’ve always been interested in politics.Â As a young child, one of my main questions (that was never satisfactorily answered) was this: ‘How do you do political research?’Â I come from a family that highly values informed civic participation.Â But I knew that people make all kind of political claims.Â I came to learn that you could find out about politics by reading the newspaper or by looking at voting guides put out by everyone from the California Teacher’s Associaton to the National Association of Evangelicals.Â That last voting guide was distributed from time to time in our church bulletin.
But both of these sources of political information were filtered; they came from secondary sources: interest groups that focused heavily on this issue or that.Â Of course, you could watch the presidential debates if you happened to have the television on for one of the several evenings they occurred.Â Or you could hear the candidates speak once if you were lucky enough to be in a town on the campaign trail.Â I still remember the hoopla when Dan Quayle visited my home town of Lodi, Calif.Â But these were still limited, one-time opportunities.Â Candidates, if they were slippery enough, could couple together a few area-relevant soundbytes and curry favor with voters everywhere they went.Â The epitome of this was Hillary Clinton’s claim that she was both a lifelong New York Mets fan and a lifelong New York Yankees fan when she spoke at two different events.Â But the ubiquity of today’s news media made that kind of campaign-trail stumping less effective, and Hillary (still a product of old-tyme politics) got burned.Â 24-hour news and a proliferation of news channels changed the world of politics.
The internet has further changed today’s political landscape.
Did you happen to miss the presidential debates (or are you part of the increasingly large population that doesn’t watch television anymore in favor of internet-delivered content)?Â No problem.Â You can still watch the debates on Youtube (www.youtube.com/youchoose), who co-sponsored the debates this year.Â Incidentally, those videos will still be available after the election is over.Â If a candidate made a campaign promise, the world will be able to look back at that promise and hold the candidate accountable after he (or she) is elected.
Would you like to know about a candidate’s stance on a particular issue?Â Go to John McCain’s Issues page: www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues or Barack Obama’s analogue: www.barackobama.com/issues.Â There’s a lot of information there; more than you can shake a stick at.Â Not that you’re the type to shake sticks at web pages, but you get my drift.
Would you like to read comprehensive campaign coverage?Â No problem.Â Go to everyone’s favorite news aggregator, Google News, at http://news.google.com/?topic=el.Â In my opinion, there’s a pretty high signal-to-noise ratio there, but it’s still a legitimate source of coverage.
Blogging took off first in two worlds: the technology world, where every geek seems to be publishing stuff (…ahem…) and the political world, where every wonk (and Wonkette) has their own lane in the information superhighway.Â Here’s a search on Google blog searches for ‘2008 presidential election‘.
With so much information out there, it’s more important than ever that you trust your information gatekeepers.Â That’s why we here at andrewandlisa.org are running for ….. um ….nothing.Â Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away with all the political commentary.
But seriously, folks, in today’s internet age, where it easier than ever to be informed and easier than ever to engage in thoughtful dialogue, we should be using the internet to make us more informed citizens.Â Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a more informed race.Â I think the quality, peculiarity and non-polarity of our two presidential candidates is already a result of and testament to this great world-changing new media.