These days, it’s not just your friends that can let you know what they are up to via Twitter. The political world also wants to get in on the action ‘- and win your vote. Some Boston mayoral candidates, legislators and even President Barack Obama have Twitter accounts, all with thousands of followers.
There are some drawbacks to having Twitter, Facebook and YouTube play such large roles in local and national elections. With all this information coming at the public from every angle, it may be more difficult for voters to decide what information is really important. Others are concerned that elections will become too much about personality and image instead of real issues. But political campaigns have always been about image. In the 1960 presidential election, those watching a televised debate between Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon thought that a youthful-looking Kennedy won the debate over a haggard-looking Nixon, while those listening to the radio thought Nixon was the victor. More accessible candidates as a result of new technology will only carry on the trend of voters choosing the more charismatic and personable candidate.
Like it or not, this kind of instant communication between candidates and voters is going to be a cornerstone of political elections for the foreseeable future. And there’s plenty to like about it. If voters wanted to learn more about Obama or Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the last election, all they had to do was go to the candidate’s Facebook page or watch the candidate’s speeches on YouTube. Also, in an age in which politicians are always being followed by a camera, the public has a chance to see the ‘real’ side of a candidate in an unscripted moment, even if that moment is not a flattering one.
Refusing to utilize new technologies will spell certain doom for a candidate, but to be successful in an election, one must know how to use technology the right way. Last month, Republicans held their first technological summit, where they solicited ideas to come up with the best use of technology to woo young Democrats and Independents to their side. This, however, is missing the point. Young people in America are not going to be persuaded to support a candidate or party because of the fancy gadgets they are using, or if they can use the current technological slang correctly. It’s the substance, not the style, that matters in the end. Politicians can’t expect to earn a youth following unless they are talking about issues that young people care about, such as education and the environment. Technology will allow voters to be more informed and get to know the candidates better, but the politician with the most technology is not always going to be the one with the most votes.