Musings —06.29.2010 02:30 PM—
Found here. New column:
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Welcome to the bar scene from Star Wars.
So here I am, sitting in a line-up at the Walden Galleria Mall, waiting for Apple to open its doors, so I can be one of the first to snap up a shiny new iPad. All around me are acned geeks and pudgy, pale nerdlings. They are excited beyond description, like they have been subsisting for weeks on a diet of cheezies and fizzy pop (which, mostly, they have). The nerdlings have emerged from their Mom’s basement, pajama-less, to be one of the first to purchase Stephen Jobs’ much-hyped computer tablet thing.
It’s just past 5 a.m.: there are about twenty people here, divided into two tidy Apple-esque lines. One line is for people who have already paid for an iPad. The other line is for i-losers like me, who thought it would be fun for the readers of this column to see the lengths to which I will go to entertain and inform them about the iPad, and the political ramifications of same. Upon hearing about this plan, my 14-year-old daughter, who is way smarter than me, observed: “Dad, it’s just an oversized iPod Touch. Get a grip.”
She’s right, of course. But here I am, just the same, because I am dedicated to providing a memorable column-reading experience for You, The Reader. A guy beside me, a genial young engineering student, asks another guy in the reserved line – who looks like he was an extra in the Matrix movies, and forgot to remove his costume – why he was lined up three hours before the Apple store opens, to get an iPad he is guaranteed to get anyway. The Matrix guy shrugs and says: “Now we’re guaranteed guaranteed.”
God help me. I am now, officially, marooned on The Island of Misfit Dweebs.
A few minutes crawl by. One guy – a Canadian, I am ashamed to say – appears carrying a backpack. It has solar panels on it. He starts chatting amiably with the young engineer about the efficacy of different types of fibre optic cables.
You know, I think no jury would convict me for what I am thinking about doing right now.
It is many weeks later. At first, I had thought about typing up this column on my iPad, which I have grown to love, like the child I never knew I had. I had also thought about telling you how the iPad is revolutionary and will change the way in which modern politics is done. I had considered opining that the iPad – along with the fab technological innovations that have preceded it, like smart phones and Blackberries and whatnot – will utterly transform the political campaign landscape.
But I won’t. Because it isn’t true.
I can certainly see the iPad being helpful on E Day, or in a door-to-door canvass. It’s the most amazing clipboard in the history of the world, to be sure, with endless possibilities for quickly storing and sharing GOTV data. It can be a crucially-important tool for campaign managers, too, because it can bring together so many facets of the campaign in one handy little one-pound device.
But change politics? Not quite. As with the myriad software innovations the gadget-crazy political class has seized upon – like blogs, and Twitter, and YouTube and Facebook – the iPad can be a useful addition to a campaign. But I don’t think it will ever supplant the traditional elements of a campaign – stuff like loping from door-to-door in a canvass, well-attended all-candidates meetings, positive earned media and (for central campaigns) smart TV advertising.
The problem, you see, is this: the strength of the Internet – and iPads and YouTube and blogs are all wholly dependent on the Internet – is its weakness. As you may have heard, the Internet is super-duper popular, and has attracted billions of eyeballs. But, because there are literally millions upon millions of web pages and choices to eyeball, it’s super-duper hard to know where to look. It’s harder, still, to get noticed. Ipso facto, what makes the Internet so popular is its weakness: it has too many channels.
TV doesn’t. TV, as my smart BC Liberal-and-Democrat friend Don Millar will tell you, TV is still the most effective medium to communicate with the voters you need to win. Don – an Alberta native who has toiled for big-wheel Democrats in Washington (like Dick Gephardt) and big-time Liberals in Ottawa (like Jean Chretien) – snorts at the suggestion that campaigns can dispense with TV, like it’s an Eight Track Tape machine. “Politics is about making important choices,” he says. And TV remains the best way to do that.
Another former colleague – genial former Harper PMO supremo Patrick Muttart, now based in Chicago – has also resisted the temptation to abandon traditional paid spots in favour of, say, a YouTube-based advocacy campaign. Muttart’s ubiquitous “Stand Up For Canada” spots were everywhere to be seen on TV during the crucial 2006 federal election campaign – because TV was, and remains, the most effective way to reach the widest voter audience. Despite earlier predictions that the Internet would smash TV’s political primacy, that just hasn’t happened: since 2006, U.S.-based campaigns, in fact, have seen television broadcasters smashing records with revenue derived from political campaigns. The Internet is more of factor, to be sure. But my shiny new iPad notwithstanding, TV will dominate the political wars for the foreseeable future.
For your next Star Wars convention, however, the iPad can’t be beat. Wave one around on a crowded street, and you’ll need a stick to beat off the pajama-clad nerdlings and geeks!