Po­lit­i­cal class is about to get schooled

The Covington News - - THE SECOND OPINION -

You might ex­pect a story about wine, The Wash­ing­ton Post, Twit­ter and polling to be about the life­style of the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal elite. But this one is about the dig­i­tal threat to Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal class.

Let’s start with the wine. A re­cent story on Mar­ketwatch.com noted that apps are now avail­able to scan the label of a wine bot­tle, com­pare prices and or­der on­line. Other apps help peo­ple learn more about wine and make restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions.

One wine di­rec­tor com­plained, “Wine is an ex­pe­ri­ence and should not be sold that way.” But 6 per­cent of wine sales last year were con­ducted on­line, a fig­ure that is grow- ing rapidly.

The rise of on­line buy­ing is good news for con­sumers and for lesser-known winer­ies whose prod­ucts now have a bet­ter chance of be­ing sam­pled. The only losers will be those who pre­fer the sta­tus quo. That’s the same mes­sage that comes from the sale of The Wash­ing­ton Post. For most of Amer­ica, it was no big deal. We’ve heard the same story about plenty of other news­pa­pers in re­cent years. But for of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton, the sale of the Post was treated like the death of a fam­ily friend. On learn­ing that the deed had been done by an In­ter­net guru, you could al­most hear the po­lit­i­cal class reaction in the words of that wine di­rec­tor. News “should not be sold that way.”

For some who live in­side the D.C. bub­ble, the sale of the Post might have fi­nally forced them to rec­og­nize that a hand­ful of po­lit­i­cal and me­dia in­sid­ers can no longer con­trol the nar­ra­tive of the national sto­ry­line. That’s good news for ev­ery­one ex­cept those who pre­fer the sta­tus quo.

Last week, Twit­ter en­tered the dis­cus­sion when a pro­fes­sor claimed that an anal­y­sis of tweet­ing did an un­usu­ally good job of pre­dict­ing the re­sults of U.S. House elec­tions in 2012. A for­mula based largely on the num­ber of “tweets” for can­di­dates cor­rectly pre­dicted 92.8 per­cent of House races. The im­pli­ca­tion was that this model might soon re­place tra­di­tional polling.

There were many prob­lems with the claim (chron­i­cled by Mark Blu­men­thal, se­nior polling edi­tor of The Huff­in­g­ton Post). At a very ba­sic level, though, when more than 90 per­cent of House in­cum­bents rou- tinely win re-elec­tion, the 92.8 per­cent fig­ure isn’t so im­pres­sive. Still, while the pro­fes­sor claimed too much too soon for the new tech­niques, the polling in­dus­try faces the same chal­lenge as the wine stores deal­ing with new apps. New tech­nol­ogy will fun­da­men­tally al­ter the ways that polls are con­ducted. Other on­line tech­niques will re­place polling en­tirely in some sit­u­a­tions. Th­ese shifts will be good for ev­ery­one ex­cept those who de­fend the sta­tus quo.

That same les­son will soon be learned by Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal class.

The dig­i­tal world is chang­ing ev­ery­thing about pol­i­tics. It has al­ready changed the way main­stream Amer­i­cans get in­for­ma­tion, or­ga­nize, vote, in­ter­act with each other and learn about al­ter­na­tive ap­proaches to prob­lem-solv­ing. Th­ese changes em­power the mid­dle class.

The po­lit­i­cal class is try­ing to re­sist and cling to the sta­tus quo, but they will be no more suc­cess­ful than those in the wine, news­pa­per or polling in­dus­tries. In the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion, those de­fend­ing the sta­tus quo al­ways lose.

To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit cre­ators. com.

SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN COLUM­NIST

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