questions, now that the web has made them answerable. What deputy finance assistant on which congressman’s campaign made a slighting remark about whose volunteer press secretary? Somewhere a reporter is working the story. Probably two reporters. Probably more. And when they’ve got the story, they’ll release it to the world, at no more than 240 characters, on the web’s ultimate information delivery device. Twitter is the next step in a devolution touched off by the Internet in its takeover of the political world. It is a conveyance designed for triviality. And the excitable people who report on politics are now more than ever consumed with the trivial – technical questions about process, gossip about nobodies, developments that loom fleetingly large but point to nothing beyond themselves. The world of politics has become a constant churning of momentary obsessions, apparently earth-shaking until the next Crisis of the Century arises an hour from now. There’s an unhappy paradox here. The web, with its dazzling potential to democratize politics, with its promise to take public affairs from the hands of a remote elite and return them to ordinary people, has in fact made politics look more than ever like the hobby of a specialized cabal. The sheer volume of politics is exhausting and, to a normal person, off-putting. As technology drives ordinary voters and political practioners further apart, the distaste of the first group for the second group, and vice versa, only intensifies. So thoroughly has the Internet transformed politics that it has even breached that last barrier to entry that we mentioned above. Howard Dean’s campaign had the money,
the message, and the energy necessary to win. What it didn’t have was a candidate – someone who was personally attractive to most voters. Dean did himself in, and the Internet couldn’t save him. Twelve years later, in 2016, even Donald Trump couldn’t do himself in. As election day approached, voters told pollsters they were quite aware of Trump’s failings as a man and a candidate. They elected him anyway, thanks in part to some clever data mining made possible by the web. It brought him just enough votes from unexploited pockets of Pennsylvania and Michigan to flip the Electoral College and win the presidency. Thanks, Internet. It is no accident, as the commies used to say, that Trump’s favorite means of communication is Twitter. It accommodates petulance and resists chains of reasoning. It can make him the center of attention to everyone everywhere all at once. It suits him – and it suits what politics has become in the Internet age. The president is fond of punctuating his tweets with summary judgments: “TOO BAD!” “NOT GOOD!” It is fitting to give him the last word, as we gaze upon American politics in this era of disruption: SAD!
Andrew Ferguson is the author of several books, including Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course on Getting His
Kid Into College. He is a former speechwriter for President George H. W. Bush and a current senior editor at The Weekly Standard.
American Consequences 35
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