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Blog 11: Democracy Then and Now

The growth of technology has forever changed the game politics and the way the average citizen actively participates in politics. When my parents were my age if you mentioned Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, or even just the Internet they would have no idea what you were talking about. Now these mediums define political elections and the way political candidates utilize these outlets can make or break their campaigns. As Stephen Coleman from the Oxford Internet Institute puts it,

Politicians used to put out leaflets with pictures of their family and pet dog and copies of their lousy speeches and it would be enough. Unfortunately many politicians now just create a web site with pictures of their family and pet dog and their lousy speeches but it is not good enough.

Politics used to be a much more interpersonal process. Campaigns relied all on the candidate traveling and meeting people because if he did not voters would have no idea who he was. In the digital age that we live in voters can know get to know a candidate by researching them through Google or even watching Youtube videos that candidates post to the site. This also makes it more imperative for candidates to have a squeaky clean image. Any small squabble at any point in their lives can be leaked to the Internet and their political career could be over in a matter of minutes. An example of this is during the 2000 Presidential Election when news of George W. Bush‘s DWI reached the press. Ultimately he was able to overcome this, but for others this proves to be a more difficult task.

Another major change from my politics when my parents were my age to now is the growth of television involvement in politics. Television in politics was brand new when parents were in college and candidates such as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were trying to figure out how to manipulate this medium and use it to their advantage. Now candidates almost have to have a strong television presence or they have no chance to be a serious candidate. Voters are looking for a good-looking man who they feel they can “have a beer with.” Back in my parents day if a candidate looked OK in a picture they had a good shot in the election. It is a whole new world now.

Politics have changed from my parents time to mine and I can only imagine what they will be like when I have a child who is my age. Candidates will be worrying about how they look in 3D.

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