Kat wrote this post.  Just so you don’t think Jason is referring to himself as a “foolish woman” three paragraphs down.   

On this day in 1960, the first televised debate between presidential candidates aired, between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.  

At the time of this writing, it’s still up in the air whether or not there will be a similar debate between the current presidential candidates today. 

If I were a far more foolish woman than I am, I would make that potential debate the focus of this post.  Heck, I might even disclose whether I’ve decided who to vote for and if so, who that might be.  (I will admit I’m a registered Independent, which to my mind means I get to make fun of the follies of both parties equally.)

Lucky for you, I’m not that foolish.

It’s probably not an overstatement to say that the Kennedy Nixon debate changed the face of American politics from that point forward.  While most radio listeners considered it a draw, the television viewers, who vastly outnumbered them, felt that Kennedy beat Nixon soundly.  

While Kennedy was sporting a tan and looking typically sharp, Nixon’s appearance ostensibly led to Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago exclaiming, “My God, they’ve embalmed him before he even died.”

Once television had a foothold in the living rooms of America, it became the single most prevalent source for information during an election.   It became a force of undeniable power in shaping the outcome of our political process.   We trusted in the journalistic integrity of the professionals who provided the news to give us the unvarnished facts.   We didn’t account for the “varnish” that cameras, makeup, and production values could add to a candidate–or a poor television presence could remove from one.  

Now the web is quickly taking over as the most important media in the lives of Americans.   The Times Online reports that as of this August, more Americans get news from the internet than print or network television.  A UCLA study also found that Americans who use the internet consider it at least as important as newspapers and books—and more important than television, radio, and magazines.

Back in January of this year, K.D. Paine was declaring this “The Social Media Election.”  Even further back, CBC News did a feature on social media’s effect on the upcoming U.S. presidential campaign.

watch?v=vBzjRdEMjEU

According to Pew Internet Research, over a third of Americans have watched online political videos–tripling the data from the 2004 election.  

The explosion of bloggers, as well as other social media creators and promoters, has been a double-edged sword.  Inaccuracies and even outright fabrications about candidates can move across the social web at lightning speed.  Conversely, the turnaround time on responses to those inaccuracies is breathtakingly fast as well.  

And while everyone’s eyes are currently turned to the national stage, online fundraising using social media tools may potentially benefit local, low-profile candidates more than anyone else.  

The whole Ron Paul phenomenon is another case in point.  While Paul didn’t secure a nomination, much less the election, the fact that such a fringe candidate could viably remain in the race as long as he did is a testament to the social web’s ability to mobilize and connect passionate voters.

Time will tell whether or not the scheduled debate will take place, and whether or not the polls of the social web will end up accurately reflecting votes cast.   But one thing seems fairly certain: in the same way that after Nixon and Kennedy, candidates could ignore television at their peril, after 2008 candidates can ill-afford to ignore “those crazy bloggers” and others involved in social media.

image credit Brittanica.com
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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.octanecorp.com Brandon

    I think social media has changed the game in politics, and very few people realize it. I watched Friday night as people that I would have never engaged in political discussions with were posting comments on Facebook and Twitter. Think about it – Facebook was in its infancy during the last election and MySpace wasn't being used for these kinds of conversations. YouTube didn't even exist yet! I predict that the dialog on Facebook is going to reach a fever pitch as we race toward the finish line. After the election, I think the mainstream media is going to look back and ask 'what just happened here and why didn't we see it coming?' The polls do not reflect the reality of today's political climate. Elections will never be the same again.

    • KatFrench

      That's an interesting take.

      If indeed, social media's influence in politics is greater than anticipated, it would be a first.

  • http://www.octanecorp.com Brandon

    I think social media has changed the game in politics, and very few people realize it. I watched Friday night as people that I would have never engaged in political discussions with were posting comments on Facebook and Twitter. Think about it – Facebook was in its infancy during the last election and MySpace wasn't being used for these kinds of conversations. YouTube didn't even exist yet! I predict that the dialog on Facebook is going to reach a fever pitch as we race toward the finish line. After the election, I think the mainstream media is going to look back and ask 'what just happened here and why didn't we see it coming?' The polls do not reflect the reality of today's political climate. Elections will never be the same again.

  • http://www.octanecorp.com Brandon

    I think social media has changed the game in politics, and very few people realize it. I watched Friday night as people that I would have never engaged in political discussions with were posting comments on Facebook and Twitter. Think about it – Facebook was in its infancy during the last election and MySpace wasn't being used for these kinds of conversations. YouTube didn't even exist yet! I predict that the dialog on Facebook is going to reach a fever pitch as we race toward the finish line. After the election, I think the mainstream media is going to look back and ask 'what just happened here and why didn't we see it coming?' The polls do not reflect the reality of today's political climate. Elections will never be the same again.

  • http://www.octanecorp.com Brandon

    I think social media has changed the game in politics, and very few people realize it. I watched Friday night as people that I would have never engaged in political discussions with were posting comments on Facebook and Twitter. Think about it – Facebook was in its infancy during the last election and MySpace wasn't being used for these kinds of conversations. YouTube didn't even exist yet! I predict that the dialog on Facebook is going to reach a fever pitch as we race toward the finish line. After the election, I think the mainstream media is going to look back and ask 'what just happened here and why didn't we see it coming?' The polls do not reflect the reality of today's political climate. Elections will never be the same again.

  • KatFrench

    That's an interesting take.

    If indeed, social media's influence in politics is greater than anticipated, it would be a first.

  • KatFrench

    That's an interesting take.

    If indeed, social media's influence in politics is greater than anticipated, it would be a first.

  • KatFrench

    That's an interesting take.

    If indeed, social media's influence in politics is greater than anticipated, it would be a first.

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    Although respondents think the internet is more important than ever as a source of information, they’ve also become more skeptical of what they find online. Only 53 percent of users believe most or all of what they read online, down from 58 percent a year earlier.

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    As we know Facebook was in its infancy during the last election and MySpace wasn't being used for these kinds of conversations. YouTube didn't even exist yet! So I think that the dialog on Facebook is going to reach a fever pitch as we race toward the finish line.

  • http://www.brisbanehousepainter.net/ brisbane house painters

    As we know Facebook was in its infancy during the last election and MySpace wasn't being used for these kinds of conversations. YouTube didn't even exist yet! So I think that the dialog on Facebook is going to reach a fever pitch as we race toward the finish line.