The e-mail version of A-Clue.com ends next week, and I am closing it out with five essays featuring the main topics of this 10 year endeavor.
A-Clue.Com will continue, here, at this blog, with weekly essays available via e-mail or RSS feed.
I have covered the intersection of the Internet and politics since 1996, and by early 2003 I became intrigued with the work being done in Burlington, Vermont by supporters of Howard Dean. I went there in June, with my lovely bride of some decades, and some copies of my Moore’s Law book. I warned them that they would soon become a major tourist attraction. I was right.
But events afterward got away from my power to predict. The Scream symbolized a larger problem with the Dean campaign structure. They were unable to scale the intimacy found by early users of their blog. Rather than upgrading the technology they sent a huge crowd of supporters into Iowa, a state that insists on intimacy, and their campaign was treated as an invasion by the locals.
Worse I saw the whole campaign being portrayed on TV as though it were 1968 or 1970. What was done then by various candidates was of no less importance to the media than what was going on in Iraq. Everything was seen through the prism of the earlier time.
This was not what should have happened, I thought. The year 2004 was 36 years removed from 1968, and going back another 36 years brought us to the rise of FDR and the New Deal. I noticed that another 36 years back brought us to the rise of Populism, and another 36 again brought the Civil War into focus.
That pattern, and its failure to replicate in 2004, began to fascinate
me. It still does. I finally concluded that, well, people age more
slowly today. John Kerry at 63 was in the prime of his life. In the
1968 race he would have been an old man – Richard Nixon turned just 55
that year. The same was true for most of the other figures in that
election. They were debating irrelevancies because the past was more
relevant to them, and to us, than the present. So the knees jerked, as
they had since Nixon’s speech writers first coined the term "the silent
But that could not continue to hold. My Uncle John was a young
infantryman during World War II, but on a family reunion cruise in the
summer of 2004 he was an old man of 80. Kerry and Bush, just like you
and I, would go through the same process, and would in time become
irrelevant. Besides there were new voters, like my own two kids. My
daughter cast her first votes in 2006, but I knew there wasn’t much
passion in them. Her politics were informed by my own, but not yet
formed. Events would inform them.
Events that were yet to come.
I came to realize that political assumptions also age into
irrelevancy. New problems, new crises arise for which the assumptions
of the past hold no answer, and as I studied past cycles I saw the
result was always the same – the government stagnated and become
irrelevant. The non-reaction of President Bush to Hurricane Katrina,
the complete rejection of global warming and looming environmental
catastrophe, it was all of a piece with LBJ and Vietnam, with Hoover
and the Depression, with James Buchanan and the looming Civil War.
There is a real crisis before us, one we don’t see because we don’t
have eyes to see it. This encompasses the fate of the whole world, now
burning with a man-made fever. The oceans are being poisoned by carbon
dioxide, weather patterns are being destroyed by the greenhouse effect,
and we are approaching a tipping point from which there is no return
but the grave. Al Gore is right, just as the Populists were right in
the 1890s, and abolitionists in the 1850s. He is asking the right
questions, but they are not being addressed.
How might they be addressed? I saw that in every generation a
new medium had emerged to drive popular opinion toward new problems. A
mass market book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, led the way in the 1850s. The
penny newspapers of Pulitzer and Hearst drove change in the 1890s. The
new media of radio and movies were mastered by the New Deal. TV drove
the 1960s, and it was the Nixon campaign’s successful response to this
which made him the future.
And suddenly the whole thing knit together. This medium, the Internet,
is just as old as those media were when they were called upon to change
politics. The mass market Internet is now 12 years old. Its vocabulary
is the media vocabulary of people like my daughter, the people who will
face this as the crisis of their lifetimes.
This medium is the answer to the threat, and the values of this medium
will determine how we answer the threat, just as the values of TV
determined how we answered the 1960s, or radio and movies answered the
But how can a medium with millions of choices drive a new consensus?
And how will the values of this new medium be used in coming up with
That’s the subject of my next book, which I plan to produce using this medium. My new blog, www.www.danablankenhorn.com, has been the home of a series of essays on the subject, under the heading of political philosophy. The Connexxions project at
Rice University, my old school, provides a perfect place to perfect and
"publish" the work, including all the media types I need to bring my
And so, to pursue this new project, I decided that some things
would have to be let go. This is one of those things. My mind can’t go
in one direction continuously, so I will continue to publish these Clue
essays on my blog, and its feed is available for both newsreaders and
My direction is set. But what about the Internet?