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We, the People is now 'We, the Broadbanders'

Clinton’s Internet Connection a Sign of Digital Progress “We The People” is now “We, the broadbanders”

Contact: Michele Buc, MRB Marketing, 615-366-6444, Michele@michelebuc.com

MEDIA ADVISORY, Jan. 22 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following is submitted by Jane Hampton Cook author of The Faith of America’s First Ladies and former White House Deputy Director of Internet News Services for President George W. Bush

What does Hillary Clinton’s strategy of announcing her presidential intentions through an Internet video say about technology? It says we’ve downloaded a thousand bites of progress in mere years. Digital campaigning is now as exciting as a political rally and as influential as a debate.

To show you how far we’ve come, let’s rewind nine years. When I joined President George W. Bush’s staff in 1998 to serve as his webmaster for his official governor’s office website, making any major announcement exclusively through the Internet was impractical and inconceivable. The most “controversial” technology issue facing us then was whether or not we could put a midsize photograph of Bush on his own home page. Even President Clinton’s photograph on the White House website was only a thumbnail at the time.

The question was whether or not users could download a page that expanded too far beyond text and links with larger graphics. We didn’t want to turn off viewers (or voters) if the download time was too long. If Texans could take a shower during the time it took to download to their governor’s webpage, then we had failed to adequately communicate his message. We also didn’t want to be overly promotional. Yet at the same time, we wanted to tap the Internet to its greatest potential by providing the public with information about their elected officials. We did put a few photos on the home page but kept it simple. Such was the state of governmental-political-Internet affairs in 1998.

By the time President Bush became president three years later, broadband had changed everything. When I joined the White House staff in 2001 and began redesigning the White House website, whitehouse.gov, it was apparent that “We the People” also meant “We the broadbanders.” The web team was able to turn the White House website into a news oriented site, complete with near instant journalistic-style photographs from White House photographers, audio clips, enriched graphics, web videos, an interactive kids section, historical segments, a chat-like Ask the White House feature, Barney Cam, and even a 360-degree tour of the Oval Office led by President Bush. Downloading time was a peripheral concern. Not only did more than fifty percent of households with children have access to the Internet, but their Internet access was also becoming faster than water could shoot from their shower heads.

Senator Clinton’s purposeful presidential web announcement shows us the digital leaps office seekers have made since her husband was president. The fact that a major presidential candidate could use an Internet video as the primary means for announcing her intentions reveals that we’ve come a long way from the thumbnails and text links of a decade ago. Candidates on both sides are also using the Internet to make a warm connection with voters, but Mrs. Clinton’s name recognition and the hype behind her candidacy made her intentional web video bigger news.

Through blogs, videos, chats, direct email, and campaign contributions, the candidates of 2008 will be able to make a more direct connection with potential voters through the Internet, further bypassing the filter of the mainstream news media. The 2008 Presidential Election will not be based on who has the best website. Ideas, policies, personalities, attacks, and mistakes will do more to influence voters when they click the button in their electronic voting booths. And although I will not be voting for Senator Clinton—for reasons that belong in another article—one thing is for sure. Regardless of who wins in 2008, digital democracy will emerge a victor.