Technology and Politics. Twenty one years ago, when George H. W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis, would anyone have said there was a strong relation between the two? One of the things that the Personal Democracy forum or PDF explores is the impact of technology on politics and sessions help attendees better understand the relationship and how to leverage technology in politics and civic action.
At the beginning of PDF 2009 in the second session where we had Mark McKinnon (McCain 2008) and Joe Rospars (Obama 2008) on the stage and we all thought back to who used technology more effectively during the Presidential campaign, it's clear that the Obama campaign's better use of technology was instrumental to his success. McKinnon was confronted by his previous statement during campaign 2008, "John McCain is aware of the internet". That one statement is going to be the permanent epitaph of McCain 2008's use of technology.
McKinnon mentioned that during election 2000, no one in the Bush campaign even had a blackberry. That now seems like such a foreign concept. In the last year, I've become fond of saying that the internet has become the single biggest problem for the GOP. In the past, the Republican Party and its officials could say one thing today, something completely different nine months from now and usually get away with it. A good example is when McCain said that talking about the children of politicians and candidates should be off the table. He probably would have gotten away with that statement twelve or sixteen years ago. An internet search, however, led me to pen this article http://www.opednews.com/articles/McCain-attacked-18-year-ol-by-Steven-Leser-080907-422.html that showed that McCain attacked Chelsea Clinton in 1998 with a very nasty joke.
This is only one example of many times, some complete with YouTube videos, where Republicans have been caught in embarrassing and contradictory statements. If the GOP is going to be effective, there is going to have to be a fundamental change in how leaders in the GOP conduct themselves. Asked directly what the GOP has to do to improve how it uses technology, Joe Rospars responded directly "Get new leaders."
Veterans using the net
One of the more heartwarming, or should I say heart wrenching stories from the first morning of PDF was the press conference by IAVA, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, led by Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Gina Bianchini of Ning.com and Paul Reichoff of IAVA. The press conference told the story of a particular veteran, Ray Leal, that typified the stories of many who have come home from those wars and felt isolated and suffered from PTSD. IAVA and the associated website communityofveterans.org was created to provide returning veterans with access to a community of only Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to share experiences, share information about access to healthcare and other resources and in general improve the quality of life for veterans.
If you still would like to attend PDF, the conference runs through tomorrow (Tuesday 6/30) evening. Tweets from the many attendees can be seen at #pdf09 .