How does technology affect the political process?

A viewer asked this question on 3/14/2000:

In what manners and to what extent has democracy been strengthened by the move from party organization to political entrepreneurs and high technology politics?

budgetanalyst gave this response on 3/15/2000:

I believe that you should focus on how the electoral system is working. Is it better now than in the past? This is a judgement you have to make.

What you should look at is how individuals are afforded better opportunities to participate in the process than they had in the past. Technology does at least two basic things: (1) It provides more information faster to more people, and (2) makes it possible for individuals to react quickly and directly.

The recent McCain campaign is a good example of how technology helps. The New Hampshire results were known immediately across the country, and the use of the Internet and a sophisticated McCain web site allowed many people to immediately join the cause by making contributions using their credit cards. As a result, McCain got a large amount of money in less than a day, allowing him to expand his campaign.

McCain is also an example of a political entrepreneur who could not have arisen without current technology. His candidacy was very much helped by the Internet. Without the Internet it is not likely that he would have even started his campaign given that he was running against his own Party's leadership's choice, and he got no help from the Party itself.

But there are problems with a system based on newer technologies. The old (prior to TV) party system was also a social support system. The old technology, of having people talk to people, led to the development of many small scale leaders who looked after the needs of their immediate communities and took care of individuals through political influence. Many social groups advanced in American society by using the political party process. This system was not perfect, and led to much corruption.

One of the benefits of the new politics based on technology is that the old corrupt ways have been eliminated. But now there is a new corruption - to use the new technologies you need much money, and who provides this money? In the old days the parties collected money from members, but this no longer works. So now we have a new type of corruption - those with money control the political process.

You have to decide whether or not the change has been for the better, and whether or not technology will work for the betterment of the process in the future.

JesseGordon responded:


Return to index