I have now been writing this virtual book, originally called Open Source Politics, for nearly a year now.
I have covered American political history and its cycles. I have covered why those cycles occur. I have covered some elements of an Internet Political Thesis, based on the Myths of this medium and the Values that arise from it. I have commented on people of our time whose position in the public mind echoes the themes of the last political era, which died in 1968.
What I haven’t done, until now, is to describe what an Internet Candidate might look like, sound like, and act like. Who would be our Ronald Reagan, our FDR, our Teddy Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln? What might a leader say and do so that, a generation from now, historians will say that person defined the Internet Era in politics.
One thing that has hampered me, as regular readers know, is that this is a Process Revolution, not an ideological one. Movement conservatives, from Barry Goldwater on, knew what they stood for, and what they stood against. This simplified political decision-making. But it also made them blind to new crises which post-dated their ideology.
So here goes:
Get on the right side of Internet Issues — There are certain
stands on Internet-related issues where Left and Right Blogistan are in
agreement. They agree that openness, connectivity, and transparency
must be encouraged. This means they agree on an Internet defined at the
edge, with the maximum amount of bandwidth available to all, and a
maximum amount of competition in providing it. They stand against
AT&T, for a moderated copyright regime, for letting the resource
and its users define themselves. Putting these issues
front-and-center, and being on the right side of them, is a vital
first step toward becoming the Internet Candidate.
Embrace the Medium — This means more than having a blog, a
lot more. It means changing your media mix, spending less on TV and
more on grassroots, tech-based activism. It means scaling the
campaign’s intimacy through a Community Network Service, engaging with
it (even with those on it who disagree). It means putting money into
mobile, building lists, using SMS to generate crowds and buzz. It means
encouraging advocates who don’t work for you, and who may lie beyond
your control. It means letting go of the central control that has
defined campaigns in the TV era.
Educate on the Medium — Teaching people based on the myths
and values of this medium is an important part of an Internet
Candidate’s mission. It’s the process by which this Hive Mind grows and
develops that is at the heart of the message, just as Barry Goldwater’s
ideology was at the heart of his, and
Franklin Roosevelt’s use of
government was part of his. Teaching people to be better Internet
citizens, to recognize bad actors and avoid them, is vital.
Accept Change — The Internet of 2007 is far different from
the Web of 1994. The Internet of 2020 will be different again. The
services and software, the threats and possibilities, alive on this
medium are always changing. This reflects the best not only of our
society but of the growing world society. The changes made both
possible and necessary by the growth of the Internet need to be
embraced if we’re to overcome the enormous challenges we face,
challenges which threaten to destroy our species, and to bring on an
extinction of the world as we know it as thorough as that which ended
the reign of the dinosaurs.
The rest is detail. Once you know what you’re about, an Internet
Candidate can maneuver inside that space in many ways. Just as there
emerged a host of different movements from movement conservatism, so I
expect many different movements to emerge from Internet Politics. It’s
not the ride of my life, because I’m here at the beginning, a
middle-aged man hoping to define a new world for my children. The New
Dealers couldn’t know the world of 1967, and the Greatest Generation
could not imagine, in 1968, the Internet World we live in today.
But we can all help this new world get off to the right start, for
the sake of our children, the men and women who will live in it, who
will call it home, and will look upon us as we now look upon those who
survived the Great Depression or the Civil War.