One trend in political advertising that will only grow for the forseeable future is that of independent political commentary. Some political operators are wondering how to capture the kind of mind share that many of these irreverent efforts did. But that seems quite a forlorn hope. It’s not that the independents are intrinsically smarter, more creative or more original than the standard political operators. It is simply an effect of the Long Tail and the filtering effects of the Internet / blogosphere leading to a very strong selection effect. If hundred thousand little clips are produced, of which one is really excellent, that’s the one that will rapidly filter to the top of the Internet “buzz”. The other 99,999 clips will be effectively invisible and people will say “wow, how did those two guys in a garage know how to do something that cool?”. It is this long tail and massive experimentation that produces the hits and is far too resource intensive to be reproduced by the main stream political establishment.
The question therefore is how will the political establishment react to losing much of its control of political debate? We can see how Old Media is reacting and I don’t expect the political reaction to be much better. It certainly doesn’t seem paranoid to wonder if the backing of efforts to regulate political speech on the Internet is being pushed by people who’ve seen this future and not liked it much. I suspect, though, that networked political discussions will be too widespread to be effectively surpressed during the next election cycle. Like IBM adapting to Open Source, the successful political establishments will switch from determining the state of the industry to riding the waves generated from the Long Tail. That sounds easy, but it entails giving up one’s place of primacy and control, which is never an easy thing, especially for people who until recently saw themselves as an impervious ruling class.
Success will come from embracing a psycho-historical view of the process, where the tides and currents are generated by processes outside one’s control but by adept tweaking and adaptability one can surf on them and shift them ever so slightly towards more desired ends. I suspect that this will once again favor the GOP because it is more suited to people who want to achieve specific ends rather than acquire personal power. The Modern American Left’s predecessors might well have been like that, but their current descendants have long since reduced themselves to pure power grubbing parasites. That’s not the kind of political life form that’s going to do well in the open source political future.