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Commentary: The Electronic Campaign

By Dan Lenard

Buffalo, NY – It's over. The great Republican experiment of our founding fathers continues to thrive. Just look at a county-by-county electoral map of this Presidential election. The vast majority of the country was red, voting for Bush. The Northeast, West coast and urban areas were blue in support of Kerry, or from what I saw in the exit polls, 40% of those voted against Bush, and therein lies the strength of our political system.

The passion of this Presidential campaign was unprecedented since, say, the raucous election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln's election prior to the Civil War. This time the passion was unleashed by a new medium, Weblogging and e-mail forwarding. A wave of individuals like myself took it upon themselves to post the bills of this campaign across the fences of anyone with a modem. I'll admit I strained more than few friendships with this activity. People who thought they knew me well were shocked by the tone and intensity of my rhetoric. I know personally that the passions of this campaign spilled over on family relationships as well. In my defense, I only got nasty when I was forwarded something I thought was filled with lies and distortions or by simplistic comebacks. When someone responds to a great point you make with "Oh yeah you blankity blank" you know you hit a soft spot in their convictions. However, many of us ignored the unwritten rules about net-etiquette. You try not to send things unsolicited. You don't want to get in someone's inbox if you don't really know them personally, and a viciously worded e-mail can be as intimidating as a fist shaken in your face. To those who I offended with my zealousness, I am truly sorry.

But there was a good side to all this key crunching. With the advent of the new media, the mainline press has found a check and balance to their dominance over the minds of the electorate. Finally you can discuss the validity of news stories with your family and friends, in real time, cheaply, even when you're on the other side of the continent or the world, and then they can pass the discussion on to everyone they know.

Through these electronic discussions, I came across troubling phenomenon, irreconcilable hate. Now look, I criticize liberal philosophy, but I don't hate the entire Democratic Party. What I've been hearing is a pathological, mind numbing hate towards the President and towards Evangelical Christians. The nation voted for a Republican President and a Republican majority in Congress. A large faction of the Republican Party is Evangelical Christians. However, not all Republicans are Evangelicals and not all Republicans support their agenda, including many Evangelicals. I think that folks better settle down and take a long look at the Conservative movement and its Evangelical Christian contingent, and try to understand it. I'm hearing an intolerant, elitist and insulting fear mongering from people who are making assumptions based on what someone other than Evangelicals tell them. I don't agree with them on abortion and other issues but at least I'm willing to listen.

Stop worrying. As James Madison discussed in Federalist Paper #10, this is a Republic, not a pure democracy. The power of faction is contained by the large size and regional nature of our Republic. In other words, it's a big country with lots of opinions. With our new ability to express our opinions with each other via the web, communicating our differences has become more personal and immediate. If we all play by the rules, it can only be a good thing for our country.

Looking Outside the Box, I'm Dan Lenard.