Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Politics as (un)usual

Back on February 20, "Grassroots Mom" posted a blog entry titled "I Refuse to Buy into the Obama Hype." During the course of the post she laid out her basic premise:
...the "empty rhetoric" v. "history of accomplishments" arguments have prompted me to check it out on my own, not relying on any candidate's website, book, or worst of all supporters' diaries, like this one. I went to the Library of Congress Website.
Now my post isn't about what she discovered, or whether Obama's a better choice than Clinton (or the other way around). What I want to focus on is how the Daily Koz post represents something refreshingly new in the political dialogue.

Grassroots Mom (GM), going back to the original sources, looked at every bill each of these two candidates authored, sponsored, and/or supported. She also looked at how many of those bills passed, and the scope of the legislation covered in each.

Based on her research, she decided that Obama had more political experience than she had thought, and also preferred the political character demonstrated by the bills he supported rather than Clinton. But this post isn't about who's better.

GM thoroughly documents all of the bills she looked at, and walks the reader through her thought process to get to her conclusion. The important thing here is that no one has to blindly accept her assessment.

Thanks to the Internet, we can look at the sources for ourselves and determine for ourselves if the conclusion is valid. And that changes the nature of political debate.

An early example of this change occured in the Virginia senate race between George Allen and Jim Webb. The fallout from Allen's "Macaca" incident played out far differently that it would have just a few years before, thanks to the Internet. In the past, candidates could spin events and keep reiterating their interpretation until it was accepted as fact by the public. Anyone with an Internet connection could go to the video and judge for themselves what Allen actually said, and the spirit in which he said it.

The same with GM's post. Anyone look at the bills and decide for themselves if they indicate what she says -- and reach their own conclusions about the candidates' qualifications.

There is not a chance that you'll see this kind of analysis anywhere on TV. It doesn't fit well into the soundbite format, and its not visual enough. Yet GM asks a valid question -- and gives us all the information we need to form our own answers.

- Ralph

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