The Center for American Progress,Â a centrist left policyÂ think tank in Washington, preparedÂ this very useful and nifty online compendiumÂ of how 2008 presidential campaigns are using the Web.Â The NetTrendsÂ ’08 matrix is a one stop shop for Republicans and Democrats, and anybody else for that matter, to stay abreast of trends in online campaigning.Â NetTrends ’08 also is the best example I’ve found of how politics, communications technology, and the Internet have converged to make it much simpler for people to be aware of what’s happening in the various presidential campaigns.Â Smart Growth advocates need to beÂ video, text, audio, and multi-media content providers and compel these campaigns to embrace their message.
The pace of evolution inÂ American presidential campaign strategy is significantly accelerating as candidates vie with the mainstream and new media for influence.Â The candidates know the mainstreamÂ media’s ability toÂ determineÂ message and messenger is waning, though the mainstream media remainÂ a very significant force multiplier for deciding who’s not going to make it to the final round.Â The traditional media, particularly television, have drained so much vitality out of their reporting staffs that they are largely confined at this point to talking about who’s up and who’sÂ down.
The new media, and especially the important political blogs,Â are becoming the show. They areÂ expert and nimble enough to go deeper, and have the journalistic freedom to simultaneously report and comment on breaking trends in real time,Â and make those findings available on the Web to a global audience.Â The new media also haveÂ YouTube and other file-sharingÂ sites that during this election cycle will be election-deciding forums for independent video that could elevate or decimate campaigns.Â
In 2006, during the Virginia Senate race between the Republican incumbent, George Allen, and the Democratic newcomer Jim Webb, we witnessedÂ justÂ how powerful YouTube can be in a campaign. Mr. Allen promised a “campaign of positive constructive ideas.” But theÂ senator’s campaign hit an online wall with theÂ famous “macaca” video, shot by a student who worked for Webb.Â The video, broadcast on YouTube,Â revealed a side of the Republican senatorÂ — a privileged southerner’s racial and class intolerance –Â that voters found so hypocriticalÂ thatÂ they threw him out of office and flipped control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats.Â
The point is that grassroots advocates have the opportunity to influence candidates. The millions of votersÂ involved in producing the energy efficient, transit-oriented, environmentally sensitive, land and resource conserving path to prosperity –Â theÂ American Mode Shift –need to produce content andÂ insert their message directly into the 2008 presidential campaign.Â The good folks at Thinkprogress.org are making it easy toÂ see who among the candidates is listening.Â Â Â