In many ways, the Internet has made elections fairer and better. Voters have access to more information about the candidates than they could possibly handle. (Sometimes we wonder what anyone actually knew about, say, Martin Van Buren.) Activists can communicate and organize more easily than ever before. Candidates must account for their pasts the wars they pretended to fight, the anti-masturbating videos they starred in, the bestiality emails they sent to their friends and for their remarks on the campaign trail, because everything is documented and readily available with a quick search. When citizens are more knowledgeable about candidates’ choices, democracy wins. Usually.
But this year, many candidates have developed a phobia of the Internet, and their reactions have made the democratic process less open and informed. They shy away from debates (we’re all waiting, Andrew Cuomo) and national television interviews because a single, tiny mistake could be disseminated and amplified by the Internet for weeks. They eschew town halls and public events because “trackers” from their opponents’ campaigns record every public utterance in the hopes of capturing another Macaca moment.
This fear of saying the wrong thing, and everybody seeing it over and over again, has been most prevalent among tea party candidates. As Politico reports today:
As of Friday, Colorado Republican Senate hopeful Ken Buck had gone nine consecutive days without holding a public event and acknowledged to The Denver Post that he’s more mindful now that he’s constantly being recorded by the ubiquitous ‘trackers’ being used by both sides. (With the fundraising quarter now done, however, he’s planning a more robust schedule for October.)
Tea party darlings Rand Paul of Kentucky and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware both surged to primary victories thanks, in part, to national media exposure, but after their own comments got them into trouble, they abruptly canceled post-primary Sunday show appearances and have largely avoided doing non-Fox national TV.
But what’s more remarkable is that they’ve also taken a low profile in their own states. Paul once asked local reporters to submit questions in writing and often hurries to his car to avoid them.
Of course, there is a very simple way to prevent a Macaca moment that doesn’t involve shirking the press or hiding from the voters: don’t call someone a Macaca! If you’re saying things that would destroy your campaign if caught on tape by a tracker, maybe you should consider why you’re saying those things in the first place. Instead of disavowing debates because you don’t want to be pestered about your false claim that decapitated bodies are strewn across the desert, for example … don’t claim that there are decapitated bodies strewn across the desert. Maybe that’s asking too much.
Year of the missing candidate [Politico]