Might be a good time to mention that I’m a speaker at this year’s Personal Democracy Forum. It’s my first time, so I’m not really sure what to expert but the line up is incredible: Arianna, Josh, Craig Newmark, Elizabeth Edwards, Lessig, and the granddaddy of it all, Vint Cerf. I was just talking to one of the forum’s organizers and we got into a long discussion of just how vital technology is as a political issue in and of itself, not just as the producer of the mediums we use to cover political issues. Obama, quite expectedly, has talked the most about this of the two campaigns, and has the advice in addition to the money of lots of people in Silicon Valley. McCain, equally predictably, has talked less about it. It’s not even listed as an “issue” on his campaign’s website. So it is surprising that, to the extent that McCain has talked about tech as an issue, he’s pretty good on it (“good” here=falls in line with my liberal/libertarian techie geek feelings on such policy). “A Google” aside. He’s interested in somehow applying the “One Laptop per Child” program to American needs, for example. He wants to create the internet version of the Rural Electrification Program to provide free or low-cost internet access to those not within reach of a Starbucks. He is, however, not so good on net neutrality, which is kind of inextricably connected to the issues he is “good” on. He probably deserves better than the “C+” Tech President gave him, but all the young people on the internets are going to vote for Obama (A-) (or Ron Paul) anyway, right? Not just because of their positions on tech, but in a lot of cases because of their ability to use technology as a tool for generating support. Obama’s Facebook kingdom v. McCain Space, Obama’s e-announcement v. McCain’s hand-delivered letter, Obama’s Will.i.Am video (I’m just going to assume you’ve seen it. Safe bet?) v. … er, I’m not even sure there’ s a comparable thing for McCain. Which is to say, the tech POLICY gap does seem to lead, inexorably, to a gap in the level of skill when it comes to using technology, which leads to a voter gap.
I know McCain’s team is thinking about how to close all the gaps mentioned, but I think it’s going to be tough. Then again, is the slice of voters you reach this way even big enough to make it matter? There are, as I understand it, other issues on people’s minds.