Thinking more about William Saletan’s piece today, it does strike me how often ‘net politics seems to be a force “whose moment has come.” Remember when Bob Dole mentioned his campaign site’s URL in a 1996 presidential debate? Or when a significant number of Americans started getting political news online in 1996 and AGAIN in 1998? Or when a certain commentator (i.e., me) led off an article about online politics using Jesse Ventura’s 1999 website as a hook? Skip ahead five years: Howard Dean uses blogs, organizes meet-ups and raises a shit-ton of money online, only to be eclipsed by John Kerry’s general election web/email fundraising juggernaut.
In all of these cases, outside observers were blown away by the internet’s ability to transcend traditional geographic divisions and organize (or inform or persuade) people regardless of where they live. Maybe, just maybe, this train has long since arrived at the station. Blogs and social media are neat and groovy, but they’re just new cars hitched to a very long and established line of tactics.
Not to take anything away from Saletan’s piece, since I think it’s excellent, but we need to stop talking about online politics as a “new” force. The locomotive pulled up to the platform a long time ago, and only the losers and the also-rans have ignored the whistle.