It’s the Internet, stupid

By Phil Elmore

A tiny logo, and the silhouette of a candidate who could be anyone, greet the reader who visits Mitt Romney‘s official site. The slide show on the page moves quickly – too quickly – and the entire thing looks like a fairly basic WordPress template. The largest picture of Romney on the site doesn’t really look like him. Romney stands alone, holding a microphone. The American flag behind him has stripes so wide they might as well be red and white vinyl siding.

Compare this to Barack Obama‘s website. An incongruously muscular Obama prepares to shoot a basketball at the top of the page. Another entry page asks the reader, “Are you in?” and depicts Obama greeting adoring fans and supporters. Links to the latest incarnation of Obama’s thought police, the “truth team,” invite the reader to get the “facts,” while still another page encourages the viewer to express support for Obamacare, our president’s astonishingly socialist and fittingly signature legislation.

Even Romney’s attempt to create a logo – an affected “R” in red, white and blue – appears to be a poor imitation of Obama’s ubiquitous, stylized sphincter. President Zero may be leading the country into a Carter-like malaise that outdoes even the worst moments of Mister Peanut’s miserably self-effacing, America-hating tenure, but there’s one thing Obama and his minions understand. That is the Internet. Despite the humiliations Obama has suffered in using the World Wide Web to encourage informers to report on and silence political enemies –conservatives keep co-opting Obama’s online Hitler Youth and their hash tags, for example, repeatedly ridiculing the “truth team” and running “AttackWatch” off Twitter – his is still the superior online presence. The evidence of that stares visitors in the face the moment they load the candidates’ websites. Romney’s is boring and amateurish. Obama’s is dynamic, engaging and much better leveraged, funneling traffic toward a variety of causes that make the visitor feel like he or she is part of an interconnected political movement.

This, of course, was what propelled Obama past the dour, screeching Hillary Clinton. A man few had heard of before his speech at the Democrats’ 2004 convention, a man who spent precious little time as a senator before becoming president, won the presidency – and a Nobel Peace Prize – on the basis of his personal charm and his potential. The man whose sibilant, meaningless promises of hope-and-change became years of destructive, divisive and dismissive socialist ideology got where he is because he’s good at making people like him. He’s also been outspending Romney on the Internet for months. Small wonder it is, then, that his website is so much better than Romney’s, whose principal claims to notoriety seem to be that he has money and is a Mormon. Can you feel the excitement in the air?

Possibly worse is the fact that Romney is poised to make serious mistakes, if he has not already. Newt Gingrich, whose campaign was at first dead on arrival, then surprisingly viable, then dead again, made a misstep that cost him considerable online credibility: He paid for fake Twitter followers. In the online world, followers are currency. They are an indicator, not just of popularity, but of measurable influence. If you have a large number of followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook, you can immediately spur activity, sales and grass-roots support simply by telling your followers what you think. Gingrich compounded his error by touting his large number of followers as evidence of his popularity. As it turned out, Gingrich was popular primarily among spam robots and sock puppets, demographics not known for widespread social acceptance.

Romney defeated Gingrich in the primary. At one point, strangely enough, Gingrich was Romney’s biggest obstacle in the latter’s bid for the nomination. Why, then, would the Romney campaign make the same lame mistake? Following a suspicious surge in followers, Romney’s Twitter account is drawing fire for the percentage of dummy accounts on its rolls.

If this seems like a small thing to you, understand that it is anything but. Contemporary society IS the Internet. Our daily lives have become so enmeshed and inseparable from our technology that some employers believe you’re suspicious – even a potential psychopath – if you don’t have a Facebook account. Obama is the first president to break with tradition and insist on keeping his wireless smartphone. This prompted a “compromise” against the provisions of the Presidential Records Act. It is, potentially, a tremendous security risk (not that such issues have ever troubled Obama), but that is not what matters to the election. What matters is that Obama is the first American president to use email regularly, a fact that makes him relevant and accessible in the minds of modern American citizens.

Obama’s presidency is unique in the history of this nation. This president has governed by brittle fiat, forcing socialized medicine down the throats of a majority of citizens who opposed this move. He has wildly outspent his predecessors, swelling the national debt at a dizzying pace. He has proclaimed his hatred for traditional American values (notably, by supporting gay marriage), spat on dead U.S. soldiers by giving light-hearted “shout outs” at what should have been a solemn announcement (regarding the Fort Hood shootings) and revealed his contempt for individual effort (in telling business owners that they “didn’t build that” and were not responsible for their success). The bad news we receive every day is numbing in its scope. We are a nation in decline, and there is no single person more responsible than the president presiding over that decline. How, then, does Obama hold a lead in (albeit Democrat-rigged) national polls?

The answer is simple: Obama understands how to use the Internet. He understands how to influence the many people for whom the Internet is the dominant information and entertainment outlet. He understands the significance of our interconnected and technologically saturated society. He understands why a website is instant credibility … or just the opposite.

Mitt Romney understands none of these things, and that is why he is losing this election.

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