This election is like no other, and here’s why: it’s a populist election for the first time. What has created that is technology: the internet, video cameras, easy video editing, YouTube and social networking sites like Digg. In all previous elections, what people thought was filtered through the media; to get your voice heard, you had to write to the editor, hope that he picked your letter, and suffered his editing. Or you could talk to your friends; your opinions were well communicated, but could not travel far.
This time, what people think has been available to everyone, and opinion is no longer the province of a few.
Opinions are great, but they’re just that: opinions. Video recorders, cameras and editing software have enabled people to provide evidence. Yes, it can be cherry-picked, incomplete and misleading, but the net effect is a broadening of the information from which we build our opinions; no longer do we have to rely on Fox, NBC and the New York Times. The results are in the form of Obama’s stunning victory next week.
Of course, the internet existed in 2004, but look at these start dates: Digg, November 2004; YouTube, February 2005. For the first time in history, a national conversation is taking place, and the results are about to show.