Last week, The Washington Post reported on President-elect Barack Obama's plan to convert his campaign's massive digital database of millions of supporters' contact and background data into a location that will permit him to use that data legally as a tool of persuasion for his governing effort. The Post accurately characterized it as the most important presidential exploitation of a new technology for political purposes since FDR used the then-new radio technology back in the 1930s to talk to, persuade and galvanize the American public.
As someone who did political communications and policy work on Ronald Reagan's White House staff, I can only be admiring of the tremendous political power that these new tools place in Obama's hands. We spent our years constantly trying to get President Reagan's message to the public without having to go through the distorting lens of the Washington press corps. We made huge efforts to try to communicate with specific segments of the public. If we could have merely pressed a button and made immediate, direct, unfiltered contact with tens of millions of our strongest supporters (or any and all demographically and politically sliced and diced pieces of them), I would have thought I had gone to political operative heaven.
Of course, what would have been heaven for us would have been hell for the political opposition. But if we Reaganites didn't have such a technology, our Democratic opposition didn't have any technology of their own, either, so at least it was a fair fight (although the conventional Washington media leaned toward the Democrats).
But today, the conservative opposition to liberalism (in all its political, academic and media guises) at least has talk radio as a strong voice to our constituencies, and that has helped balance the advantage the liberals get from mainstream media bias. And we would have that technology to help counter the communicating power of Obama's new mechanisms.
So it is a political fact of the highest significance that the Democratic Party's leaders -- and perhaps the politically shrewd president-elect himself -- want to kill conservative talk radio legally by reinstituting the deceptively misnamed "Fairness Doctrine" (or perhaps the doctrine of localism, which would be equally lethal to conservative talk radio).
If they succeed at the foregoing, they would come dangerously close to silencing their political opposition. Such a calculated stacking of the political communications deck would, functionally, constitute an even more effective act of repressing dissent than Woodrow Wilson's World War I policy of putting war dissenters in prison.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.