Think of this as Volume 15, Number 50 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
First of all, who are the “TV networks” anyway? They're the talking heads at Fox, MSNBC and CNN. How many people even watch those things? Maybe a total of 5.5 million people. How many voters are there? Turnout in 2008 was 132 million.
Oh, yes, but what about the local stations, and the “real” networks? That's where the money is going. You think people don't know where their mute buttons are? You think people are hanging on to every word of an ad for a candidate in a way they don't for one from a local car dealer?
Most people already have their minds made up. This has always been the case. John Alford of Rice, my old school, insisted to me recently that we're increasingly becoming segregated by politics, that our politics even defines who we marry, and that we may become two separate breeds of people, red and blue, over time.
Uh, no. People change as their circumstances change. Your world gets rocked in some way – you can't get a job coming out of college, you lose the career you had for 40 years – and so does your worldview. But this happens far away from the TV screens. It happens organically, inside us, as we experience life. We come out of these experiences different from the way we went into them.
What happens when our world is rocked? Where do we go? You think we go to TV? What is our medium of choice in these hard times?
It's not even the top-down numbers of the Internet, the “likes” that matter. What matters is what you do with them.
This is the real political change of our time. It's not a change in what we believe, but in how we come to believe it, and in what we do with that belief. And here's the key point. It's not something money can impact.
It's very clear that the Tea Party, while initially directed by some on the right, ultimately got away from its handlers. It's even clearer that the Occupy movement, while beneficial to the left, is organic and separate from the Democratic Party. Both movements exist in "meat space," and joining one or the other is a higher level of permission for what they say than even voting. But no one is going to take what TV says about such things to heart. They're going to learn about both online.
And it's what these people, on both sides, do over the course of the next 11 months that will tell the political tale. Their behavior, their activism, their arguments, both within and without those movements, will drive turnout and enthusiasm far more than any TV campaign. And the place to find the truth of both will remain the online world.
So if you want to understand politics in the year 2012, my advice is very simple.
Turn off your TV set. Go online and start exploring. Where you go, what you find, what results will be different for each one of you. You may not feel yourself being interested, because your bullshit detector is likely to steer you far from anyone even remotely involved in Republican or Democratic politics. But you will be impacted, somehow, in ways you don't expect.
Most people have their philosophies set. What using the Internet determines is how active you become, whether you contribute (which is important as permission, not a transaction) and whether you vote (which is the ultimate permission).
This may be the first truly free election in, like, ever. The money power is dead. Long live the click.