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Tiny Bubbles

Jan
27
2004

Mr. Suburban Nice Guy, David Brooks – a man who understands the Democrats’ weaknesses better than they (or their pundits) do – spends today’s New York Times column on John Edwards and “the January speech.”
Brooks dismisses Edwards’ talk of “two Americas,” saying that the close election we had last time around is evidence of what pollsters and Washington insiders like to refer to as the “50/50” nation, a country that’s evenly divided between the parties. Brooks then goes on to praise Edward’s delivery and speaking style which is nice, but, well, he’s missing the point. He and Edwards are both missing a larger picture.
The 50/50 nation is a little bit like the “new economy.” It’s not a discovery, it’s a statement of how things are. There are two Americas: one that votes and one that doesn’t. One that sort of cares about politics and one that well, you know, November is a long ways away. One that thinks that partisan in-fighting, mixed and missed messaging, and polling status is deeply important and can’t wait to add its two cents. One that well, who’s that guy again? One’s in the bubble, one’s not. Edwards and Brooks are in the bubble. So, with the exception of the pre-scream Howard Dean, is almost everyone in politics. This bubble has a number of interesting characteristics: expense accounts, Palm Pilots filled with cell phone numbers of consultants and pollsters and the understanding that a “green room” often has beige walls. It has something else that Brooks noted last week but didn’t dwell on – as he and other politicos probably should – when he filed from Iowa. The political bubble is strongly focused on Sept. 11, 2001. For the rest of us, that day is a dramatic but more distant memory. When the Democrats get that important bit of information – and its implications for, among other things, apprehension about the Iraqi War, dislike of the Patriot Act, immigration policy and the restive dissatisfaction with the economic “recovery,” we may just be getting somewhere.
These sorts of differences are what’s driving Dean bloggers crazy. But knowing very little about politics, they just can’t put their fingers on the problem, which, itself, is a problem. Bloggers go on and on about a host of Geek issues – privacy is tops on the list – but they, too, have a hard time talking about issues that matter in ways that matter to anyone outside their bubble. To make matters worse, in their eagerness to be part of the process – to somehow both puncture and expand the Big Media Bubble to include their voices and insights – they’re getting increasingly frustrated. And frustrating.
Dave Winer and the Blogging of the President guys have been beside themselves since Dean failed to win Iowa. It took two days – that’s forever in Internet time –- to get the scream remix and parodies up. Gentlemen, it’s an election. People. Voting. Deciding. And it’s certainly not a revolution (although, yes, one is clearly on the way).
Doc Searls, the granddaddy of us all (not in years, in experience and insight) took NYTimes reporter Amy Harmon to task yesterday for her Sunday story on sites that feed the prejudices of the like-minded. Searls has a point. But so did Harmon, who has been covering the politicization of the web better than anyone. Shaming her into the party line is silly. Bloggers with the Libertarian cant and their real lack of understanding for the non-wired aren’t helping their cause or that of the man they want to lead them: Howard Dean.
Once more with feeling: It’s the message, not the medium. That’s what –as Andrew Sullivan” points out in a very funny take-down of the Washington Post’s snarky look at Judy Dean’s first TV appearance — Howard Dean seems to understand with his comments about getting white southerners into the Democratic Party. Or I should say, “understood,” before he got shamed into the bubble by anti-screamers.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:57 AM | Permalink

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