I’m sure I’ve commented on this before, but it bears repeating: there is a substantive difference between specialist opinion and the general public, and it’s the same in politics and technology alike. It’s because most people aren’t really paying that much attention. Take the iPhone 5, for instance – judging from the technology press, you’d think that the iPhone 5 was the biggest disaster since New Coke. And yet, sales are through the roof and more people are citing the new Lightining connector as a bigger issue than the new Maps.
Similarly, to most accounts, the vice-presidential debate was mostly a wash, maybe a slight edge to the Vice-President – unless you’re on Twitter, where everyone was persuaded that their guy had mopped the floor with the other fellow. And let’s be honest – between the most gripping playoff baseball in years and a Thursday night NFL game, how many people were paying attention to a vice-presidential debate? A VP debate is like watching the ACC Championship Game in football – unless you’re watching to see gaffes and to jone on the participants, there’s really nothing to be gained by wasting your time.
The thing is, you wind up with a participatory minority, usually highly partisan and motivated, and a vast majority who doesn’t really care that much or pay that much attention. This is less scary or upsetting in the realm of consumer electronics than in addressing who’s going to be President of the United States. But ever since 1996, the push in Presidential elections has been to get your guys to the polls in a low-participation environment, and in some cases to try to press participation down until your share pops above 50% by one vote.
It’s a mixed bag. People need to understand politics and technology – you don’t have to be an expert, but you should know how to use the tools in front of you. And once again, I’m starting to wonder if Westminster isn’t a better way – if nothing else, to eliminate the logjam from separation of legislative and executive powers and provide for more rapid-response elections at times of no confidence…