In a few short years, that new technology helped undermine Bush and set in motion the Democratic revival seen in the last two elections.
Only now, Democratic politicians and their supporters have discovered new technology is a double-edged sword. Conservatives copied their opponents, and made serious in-roads into the Internet, social media, online petitions and lots more.
In just six months of the Obama presidency, those conservatives have altered the national agenda. After losing on the stimulus vote, they have been much more successful on health care. They know it, too. Hundreds of bloggers, think tankers and activists gathered in Pittsburgh last week for the Right Online Conference to hear one key message: “We’re catching up.”
Even the left would have to acknowledge that’s true. They saw the tea party rebellion dominate the early part of Obama’s presidency. More recently, conservative anger over health care has made once-friendly town hall meetings enemy territory.
Across town, at the liberal Netroots Nation convention, their activists were hearing the Democrats could lose 20 to 50 House seats in the next election. That bleak assessment came from Charlie Cook of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and pollster Nate Silver.
It’s a world turned upside down. Obama, the man of seven Time magazine covers since his election, is still adored by the mainstream media. Though hard-core lefties think he’s not radical enough, they still back him. The only difference is how conservatives have fought back. If Gallup polls are accurate, the movement is again on the rise – outnumbering liberals in every state.
In just six months, through Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube, conservatives have organized an effective opposition to team Obama. Ordinary bloggers have highlighted administration tax cheats, caught Obama and Biden errors and been a thorn in the president’s side. His once-high-powered tech team has struggled to make sense of it. And they’ve missed the big story.
The new tools enable voters of both sides to speak out and organize more easily. Whichever side is in power will discover that opposition can form even when the media ignore an issue.
The Internet revolution is inflaming political activists and politics may never recover. It’s less messy than the guillotine, but the tech rebellion is severing ties with old media just as cleanly.