Remember Wag the Dog, the 1997 movie about a president who controls reality so completely that he can fabricate a made-for-TV movie? Critics described it as “ringing so true” and “teasingly plausible.” But already it seems very untrue to me.
There’s still plenty of stagecraft in this year’s election, but what has been remarkable for me about the past two years is how much more real — not fake — it has all felt. I’ve barely watched CNN, but I’ve been glued to live-blogs, Twitters and IM conversations — written in real-time, by people on the scene, in voices that have been so personable and persistent that they’ve become part of my life:
- John Dickerson’s Twitter feed about a fire in the press tent, a grandmother’s death, sleep-walking to last night’s hotel room, eating six Butterfingers for dinner, a biblical deluge of rain just as the first McCain-Obama debate ended, a bigshot suddenly deciding to show a mother and her daughter around a rally.
- Katharine Q. Seelye’s breathless live-blogs of the caucuses (“a soft orange dusk is just settling over Des Moines now… all indications are that turnout is huge tonight”) and conventions (“Bristol and Levi are holding hands, as they have been doing for hours, it seems. Levi is chewing gum. More than 20 million people are probably watching on TV at home”.)
- An IM conversation with friends about what was happening on the ground in Iowa the day Clinton lost, and Romney suffered his first setback. (“Bill Clinton is attending one of the caucuses. He’s in like a school gym.”)
- A campaign volunteer on IM and SMS, live from the belly of the beast, about a disgraced politician giving a speech that nearly made him cry.
These voices have made politics feel immediate, unpredictable, intimate, exciting. They have made our democracy feel smaller and more connected. It’s another way — much more important than the oft-discussed YouTube videos of a gaffe — the Internet has made government better.
Come Tuesday, I’ll miss the action. Hopefully, whatever forces compelled people to travel everywhere, and talk, and campaign, and write and write and write — and listen too — will get behind whoever wins tomorrow night. Our real work is ahead of us.