The next U.S. president will be connected to millions of Americans for the first time because of the Internet, creating the most powerful presidency in history, democratic strategist Joe Trippi said during an open forum in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies on Thursday, Oct. 23.
"The president will say to the American people, 'Here's my agenda, help me pass it,'" Trippi said, "and Web sites like 'passthepresidentshealthcare.com' will pop up. We're going to see a weakening of Congress and a strengthening of the people's power and the president's power. The Congress doesn't know what it's up against."
Blogs and Web sites such as YouTube, which didn't exist in 2004, have channeled support for candidates, rallied communities together and placed more power in the people's hands, Trippi said.
"Unlike TV, a one-way propaganda machine with no way to talk back, the Internet and text messaging let the American people bypass the garbage and talk to each other," said Trippi, who led Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. He recently wrote "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," documenting how the Internet has engaged Americans and forever changed the face of politics.
Americans have watched almost 15 million hours of online videos about Obama, a figure that translates to $49 million in airtime on television. Obama spent $350 million on TV advertisements, meaning that had he paid for the online publicity, 12 percent of his exposure would be online and 88 percent would be televised.
Seven million people have watched Obama's entire 40-minute speech about race online, an audience size the nightly news couldn't hold for 15 minutes, Trippi said.
Trippi compared the two mediums -- TV and the Internet -- to David and Goliath. While the top-down world of TV creates Goliaths, or companies with supreme and unchallenged power and decision-making, the Internet hands out slingshots to armies of Davids to point them in the right direction. It creates a more involved and perceptive citizenry, he said.
Trippi, who makes frequent appearances on MSNBC, ABC and CBS, led Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign and used the Internet to raise $59 million -- the largest sum in any democratic presidential campaign at the time.
But the Internet can't solely raise money for campaigns, said senior Tony DeRosa, who attended the forum.
"I'm skeptical about how much people will focus on the policies in Washington," DeRosa said. "We need Web sites to make sure policies get done. They have to be focused on governments, too, and not just on the campaigns."
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But information that used to fly under the radar is now buzzing on the Internet, forcing people to confront it, Trippi said. People have also been inspired to campaign door-to-door after watching online videos.
New media tools are growing exponentially and will change the course of future elections, making campaigns more permanent, Trippi said.
"The day after Barack Obama wins, Sarah Palin will begin her campaign for president."
Contact reporter Jenn Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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