Today’s candidates are not just
battling an opponent.
The candidate
who controls the message wins the cam-
paign, but that’s now a minute-to-minute
job. There used to be pressure to win
the day, but now it’s also the morning
and the early afternoon.
Statistics show that 1/3 of voters
can go a week without watching TV
and 83 percent of smart phone users are
registered voters. But TV is still the domi-
nant force for political communication –
you can see that by how much Obama
and Romney spent on political ads – but
it is clearly waning. We’ve become a mobile
society; digital media has changed the way
voters consume information.
Presidential campaigns would
prefer to go back to three net-
works and limited information.
The new way leaves them open to far
greater scrutiny.
We are seeing a transition from
which is a top-down commu-
nication structure, to a similar top-down
broadcast structure on the Internet. There
was a brief moment of openness in the
early part of the last decade, but that’s
over. Private platforms like Google, Face-
book, and Twitter have replaced HTML
as the basic language of communications
on the web. In this transition, the fun-
damental power dynamics have, if any-
thing, become even more centralized.
That’s consistent with what’s happening
in politics in general.
Ford O’Connell ’95 /
Matt Stoller ’96
Voters are getting the short end of
the stick with respect to journalism.
Reporters experience the same headaches
as candidates; they are constantly trying
to chase the news cycle. Today’s journal-
ists are more concerned with scooping
rather than honest, factual reporting.
To them, 80 percent right and early is
better than 100 percent right and 10 sec-
onds too late.
The less money a candidate has, the
better avenue social media can be.
Facebook is the digital water cooler, the
online coffee chat room. And Twitter
allows a candidate to know right away
if the stump speech struck out.
Demographics show that social
media is still geared toward the
younger voter, under 35
It has made
great inroads with those over 35, but has
not yet hit the critical influence and satur-
ation points it has with younger voters.
Ford O’Connell ’95, a political strate-
gist and television analyst seen fre-
quently on
Fox News
, discusses politics
and media today, and how the age of
instant information is impacting candi-
dates, journalists, and voters.
Matt Stoller ’96 is a political activist,
consultant, and writer; a fellow at the
Roosevelt Institute in New York; and a
political consultant on the FX comedy
Brand X
with British actor Russell
Brand. Here Stoller weighs in on 21st-
century political communications.
Social media has not increased
freedom of the press.
In fact, there
is less media diversity in terms of well-
financed investigative reporting. Anyone
can start a Twitter feed or a Facebook
page, but most people get their news
from the same five or six companies.
You can click on 100 articles, but
they all contain similar talking
The media reflects a public
relations industry.
Candidates talk to the money, not
the people.
Political rhetoric is extremely
poll-tested and designed to be a little
less revolting to the voter than the other
guy, with the understanding that the real
audience members are corporate lobby-
ists and well-monied donors.
The meaning of democracy is
We’re seeing a recogni-
tion that the older model of politics,
where politics meant voting and not
much else, is giving way to a broader
sense of what it means to be a citizen.
This means an increase in non-elec-
toral activism, like strikes, protests,
direct action, and civil disorder.
I...,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,64 66,67,68,69,70