It occurred to me the other day that e.politics really got started eleven years ago this weekend, way back in 1995. (Remember 1995? Before the dot-com boom? Before Monica Lewinsky? Back when budget deficits were on their way out, corporate Alternative Rock ruled the airwaves, and our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity was in full and frightening bloom?)
Over that long-ago Thanksgiving weekend, my dad and his programmer buddy and I got together to work on an email-based legislative alert system, an idea that pater Delany had dreamed up a few weeks before. The original iteration of epolitics.com sputtered along for a couple of years before it followed the dodo birds and Texas Democrats into extinction, but in the meantime it introduced me to the world of web design, online marketing and internet politics. It also helped bring me to the District of Columbia and my beloved neighborhood of Adams Morgan, while leaving behind a domain name that has turned out to be eminently recyclable (thanks for thinking that one up, Mom).
I don’t honestly know what would have happened to my life if the internet hadn’t come along. My friend Phil Lepanto and I have talked many times about the fact that we can’t imagine the kinds of jobs we’d be doing now if we hadn’t drifted into web work where else would a couple of over-curious and under-skilled liberal arts majors have found a way to eat? Without the web, I would never have become a designer I didn’t even know what graphic design WAS until right before I started actually doing it for a living. Without the web, I don’t know if I would have ended up writing for an audience. This medium has given me the first real opportunity I’ve ever had in my life to be a publicly creative person, and I’ve also been able to try to make the world a little better while doing it. All around, the ‘net has been a hell of a lot of fun to be a part of.
So, this Thanksgiving, I will give thanks to all the men and women who have worked over the years to make the internet possible. We can watch it change companies and institutions all over the world, but more than that, it’s changing lives. It’s certainly changed mine, and for the better.
Amen Colin! I share your thanks for the existence of this amazing field. I share your passion.
1995 puts epolitcs at the birth of the field. 1994-5 saw many firsts. Ted Kennedy (w/ the help of MITs AI lab and Chris Casey) launched the first Congressional website, Diane Feinstein launched the first candidate website, Steve Clift launched the first online issues forum (www.e-democracy.org). Vote-Smart launched its online voter resource, PoliticsNow/PoliticsUSA launched the first political new website, and I started teaching the first university course on Internet politics at George Mason U.
All in all, it was a very exciting time offering great promise for enabling all citizens to exercise their politcal power.
Now, with blogs driving a lot of the political debate, hundreds of millions of emails sent by tens of millions of citizens to Congress, social networks boosting civil society, and millions of political dollars and volunteers being raised and organized online. we truly have much tol be thankful for.
And the fact that I am writing and posting these comments on a bus on the NJ Turnpike makes it all complete.