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A long absence — i had to let the election and the last month of campaigning speak for itself. A nice rationalization, eh?

At any rate, I was recently at a panel looking back at the Web component of the 2008 election. Much of the discussion centered on how Obama could transition his use of Youtube, social networking, etc, from campaigning to governing. Hey look! It’s a presidential radio address on Youtube! [media swoons, populace¬† yawns]

It’s taken me a while to figure out exactly what I think about this, but here it goes. I think the transition from campaigning to governing, whatever form it takes, will be a big disappointment. Leave aside the difference between a focus on one goal, the election, and the more diffuse tasks facing a government, and chew on these:

First off, the people pushing for more electronic government rely too heavily on technology as a force for change. Culture always has and always will play a bigger role, and it is much harder to identify cultural forces than it is to hold up the latest shiny gadget. I’m not sure the culture of governing is apt to change just because of online videos and twitter. Never underestimate the power of bureaucratic inertia. If and when bureaucrats do change, it won’t be in any way that we can easily identify.

And it might not be for the better. One participant on my panel claimed the full potential of the Internet would have the same effect on government as the discovery that the world was round. Sounds nice, but I should have pointed this out then (what can I say, I’m a slow thinker): what mattered wasn’t the roundness of the world but Galileo’s discovery that it revolved around the sun, pushing the earth and its inhabitants out of the center of the universe. The internet seems to put us right back in that un-humbling spot.

Let’s say a bunch of people Twitter angrily about a long line at the DMV. What’s the state supposed to do? Rush over untrained workers from some other office to handle the crush? Or make a case for higher taxes so that the DMV can be fully staffed or stay open for more hours? You decide.

Second, Obama adapted Web tools to fuel an insurgent campaign against an institution, the Democratic Party, that had already anointed Hillary Clinton. It’s unclear how you adapt those tools to running an institution, whether party or government. Unless you are prepared to radically change the institution.

Third, too often¬† the assumption behind publishing reams of gov’t information online and fostering discussion seems to be that people will arrive at a rational consensus on where the country should go. For example, I saw a comment here asking how people can use a bunch of congressional info for the public good. When you come across a definition of the public good that every voting American can agree on — and a set of policies designed to get there — get back to me. If I’m still alive, I’ll gladly entertain debate on the use of this particular info.

Fourth, the debate simply overlooks how much our forebears were able to do without the Internet. Adopt the reforms of the New Deal and the Progressive Era? Populate a continent and build the world’s largest economy? It should be obvious, but no one appears to appreciate it. Technology alone does not guarantee sweeping political change. It could even hinder it.

Electronic mediums seem to inflame differences rather than bridge them. It’s why testy email exchanges degenerate so quickly. They take away as much of our common humanity (our physical presence being a big part of it) as they let us share.

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It appears that Democrats in Adams and Franklin county have an online edge. They’re pushing Dem Bruce Tushingham out in front of Republican Rich Alloway in this Internet poll I set up many moons ago. I don’t quite understand the results, but it seems Tushingham has support of 65% versus 10.3% for Alloway. Both are running for a state Senate seat, to replace retiring Terry Punt, a Republican.

I haven’t seen many yard signs yet, but then again, I’m not driving regularly on Route 30 between York and Gettysburg. That, after all, is the other important metric in this race. Oh, and so is the overwhelming advantage in voter registration enjoyed by the GOP. I wonder if that will make a difference in the fall…

Is it possible that the Internet is changing politics? You’d be foolish to think otherwise. But you’d also be foolish if you thought the Internet laid the foundation for some utopian break.

What if the Internet served mainly as a funnel for the village cranks who, in the past, bored their family, friends and neighbors with their rants, sent angry letters to newspaper editors and generally made a habit of being self-righteous, indignant and quick to jump on everyone else’s hypocrisy but their own? Sounds like the political Internet, eh? The funnel has turned into a megaphone that’s harder and harder for the rest of us to dismiss politely, as we would the neighborhood crank. All the cranks are linked together now — and plugged directly into the media.

Consider the tempest-in-a-T-1-cable over comments by John McCain’s Internet adviser. He said something to the effect that McCain doesn’t need to know how to use a computer to govern effectively. The people bemoaning this sound a bit like someone complaining about a city council member who doesn’t know what it’s like to live on their street because s/he lives in some other, better-protected neighborhood.

Ultimately, Americans don’t need a leader who understands the Internet. They need a leader who can help them get affordable health care, sensible energy choices and perhaps an end to the war in Iraq. But just as the issues are eclipsed by the likes of Chris Matthews’ analyzing the interior and ulterior motives of Bill Clinton, they’ll be eclipsed by judgments concerning politicians’ use of, and attitude towards, new technology.

The good news for American democracy online is that there will always be some new toy for the insiders to twitter about.

Once Barack Obama lays claim to the nomination, expect a flood of stories on how the Internet fueled his victory. The narrative already is taking shape. But the real story is likely to be more complicated.

A big part of the Democratic electorate wanted to stop Hillary Clinton as much as anyone on the right. They coalesced around Obama in a way they couldn’t have coalesced around any of the other candidates that stood in her path a year ago. Most of these people already were/still are active online and set their sights on stopping Hillary (just like maker of the Vote Different ad suggested they should).

The progressive wing of the Dem party never much cottoned to either Clinton. They’ve been more than happy, I imagine, to beat her. The Internet was simply their hammer. It’s ironic that Clinton’s Senate career has been spent girding for attacks from the right, but she fell to an unlikely attack from the center.

At the risk of sounding like Geraldine Ferraro, I think Obama is probably the only candidate who could’ve stopped Clinton. John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, even Bill Richardson didn’t stand a chance. You can only trump a historic run with another historic run.

It’s still up in the air whether the American electorate as a whole is in the same historical mood as the Democratic slice of it. I’d be more optimistic if I didn’t read regular letters to the editor of my local paper warning me about the socialistic left and the fraudulent hoax known as global warming.

If polls show that Barack Obama has trouble winning over working-class, less-educated whites, that’s science. But if Hillary Clinton mentions it, that’s playing the race card.

I managed to convince myself at one point that the dragging Democratic primary wouldn’t be harmful. Now I’m not so sure, but don’t blame Clinton. As was pointed out last weekend, the Democratic party is an odd mishmash. Republicans are, too, I suppose. That’s what happens when you try to cram tens of millions of political views into two opposing camps.

The continuing battle seems worse for Obama, in that it diminishes his ability to attract swing voters if he’s defined as the candidate of young people, African Americans and the college-educated (who, contrary to their own self-image, are a minority).

Sure, Obama is popular online, the Web somehow predicted his victory and he has won more votes in the Democratic primaries. But anyone who thinks the Democratic primary process — or the Internet — is the best way to pick a general-election winner should think again. The Internet may simply be replicating the losing touch of the primary electorate itself.

At any rate, it’s no accident that the only Democrat to win a presidential election since 1968 is Bill Clinton, and he was anything but a front-runner in the beginning. He lost Iowa in ’92, if anyone cares to remember. And he probably wouldn’t have been too popular among the netroots, what with all his compromises, political and otherwise. OK, Gore won in 2000 — but he was vice president to a popular two-term candidate who couldn’t run again and probably would have been disowned by the party even if he had been able. (A friendly reader reminded me I left out Jimmy Carter, but pointed out that he was a long shot, too.)

The chief talking point against McCain is that he represents a third Bush term. Given Bush’s poor standing, that line of attack makes sense. But I don’t see it sticking. It just doesn’t ring true, certainly not as true as Obama’s supposed elitism. That bowling score (37, but in seven frames. So be fair: he could have rolled a 127 if every other ball were a strike) — and this picture — is going to come back to haunt him. Couldn’t he at least have unbuttoned his collar and loosened the tie? He must have been pretty uncomfortable with all that fabric tugging at his neck.

Plus, the far right will be contradicting the Dem’s attack on McCain’s behalf. Could it be the ultimate sucker punch? Conservatives hound McCain from the right knowing it will help him with independents and thereby paving his way to the White House? But let’s face it. Bush and McCain are very different men, have lived very different lives and have occasionally disagreed. Bush also won TWO TERMS. Let me go out on a limb and suggest that the polls showing low approval ratings have less to do with Bush and more to do with the way we expect people to perceive him, and the answers people believe they should be giving to the pollsters.

It’s also a tidy way to sweep him off the stage so the cameras can focus on the sequel rather than the pressing issues facing this country. Who wouldn’t want to watch a beauty contest — however ugly it gets — rather than a food shortage or a housing crisis?

The results are in and it looks like search results were a relatively accurate predictor of the winners of primaries in Adams County.

Will Tallman, who led Mike Rishel most of the way, came out on top with a voting edge of 3,363 to 2,766. He will face a Democrat, Neil Clifford, in the general election to replace retiring state Rep. Steve Nickol in the 193rd district.

Rich Alloway emerged victorious in the four-way GOP race to replace retiring state Sen. Terry Punt. Jim Taylor came in second, despite lagging behind everyone in search results. But — and I should have noted this earlier even though the numbers seemed too small to mention — Taylor had the most people (three) click through here to his campaign web site. Cathy Cresswell, the third-place finisher, had two click-throughs.

At any rate, here are the final results for the 33rd Senate district: Rich Alloway: 9,266; Jim Taylor: 8,933; Cathy Cresswell: 7,728; Bob Curley: 1,379. Alloway dominated in Franklin County while Cresswell rocked Adams. See county-by-county results here.

Curley, of course, switched parties and ran as a Democratic write-in candidate. The Adams County courthouse lists 2,390 write-in votes by Democrats in the 33rd but doesn’t give any names. There were 3,393 Democratic write-in votes in Franklin County, but again no names are attached. York County Democrats added another 357 votes for a total of 6,137. Were they all for Curley? I guess we’ll know eventually.

Why wait 24 hours when you can have a prediction on tomorrow’s election tonight? On the eve of the most-hyped PA primary in history, I’m posting the local Adams County candidates whose names drew the most searchers to this particular blog both for the entire spring and for the last seven days. Look for an explanation of this exercise here.

There is an interesting difference in the results depending on how far back you look, suggesting that Rich Alloway could be riding to victory on a wave of momentum. If I were you, I would trust the results from the shorter time frame more than the results from all time. WordPress seems to leave some searches out of the latter, creating odd fluctuations.

So, here are the results for all time:

For Terry Punt’s Senate seat:

  1. Cathy Cresswell: 26
  2. Rich Alloway: 23
  3. Bob Curley: 12
  4. Jim Taylor: 8

For Nickol’s House seat:

  1. Will Tallman: 25
  2. Mike Rishel:7

And here are the results for the last seven days…

For Punt’s Senate seat:

  1. Rich Alloway: 13
  2. Cathy Cresswell: 12
  3. Bob Curley:10
  4. Jim Taylor:8

For Nickol’s House seat:

  1. Will Tallman: 24
  2. Mike Rishel:5

Tallman is way ahead on the House side no matter how you slice it. On the Senate side, Alloway is up by one over the last week. But one person on Saturday was searching under “pa state senate democrat primary alloway.” Is it possible that Alloway supporters are encouraging Democrats to write in his name in a bid to block Curley’s write-in bid? Hmmm. I thought politics was supposed to be fair.

Will online searches turn into real votes? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

The York Daily Record provides a nice summary of the candidates running to replace Terry Punt. Here’s a story about the House race for Steve Nickol’s seat.

I plan to update my search results on the candidates on Sunday night and again on Monday night before the election itself. In short, I’m trying to determine which candidate is most popular based on how many online searches land on this page. It’s far from scientific. But, hey. I’m curious to see if searches line up with vote results.

I fear I may be skewing the search results simply by measuring them. But that’s a risk I can live with since I doubt any candidates are living or dying by the numbers I post here. If you are, let me know.

An underlying theme of a recent conference about online politics (that I happened to attend) was the trend toward people reading only what they want to read, thus confirming their beliefs rather than challenging them. It is the age of confirmation replacing the so-called age of persuasion.

If this is a new trend, how do you explain the endurance of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? People have always had a capacity to see only what they want to see and believe only what is convenient. It’s hard to find a golden age of rational discourse, though people seem to believe one existed as recently as the early 1990s. Newt Gingrich should be flattered

At any rate, the hand-wringing over the dawning of the “age of confirmation” seems to be the public intellectual’s version of this: