Imagining Our Tomorrows

By Tracy Russo

In a world where technology is changing the way we work and play, changing the way we connect and communicate and fundamentally altering our boundaries – how can a person who doesn’t know how to operate a computer be the kind of leader we need to move us forward and fulfill the potential all of our tomorrows hold?

It’s a question that’s been banging around inside my head since I first saw the clip of John McCain admitting he doesn’t do computers. And it has been bugging me ever since.

Far beyond the party lines and the political divide, I believe we need a leader who has vision – not just an understanding of who we are, but a clear idea of what we can be and where we can go. Understanding how the internet is changing our world and the potential it holds to further revolutionize our daily lives is a critical part of that.

Now I may be different from the average American, in terms of my reliance, obsession and love of the internet, I’d bet that if you had to place people on a spectrum of usage, that most would have more in common with me than with John McCain when it comes to computers. This isn’t an age thing – it’s a common sense thing. Plenty of older Americans are hip to the internet. according to the Pew Study, 37 percent of the population who fall into the 65+ category use the internet at least occasionally.

Every day the internet and new technology are changing our worlds. People are living their lives online, and it has made a difference in the way we consume goods and services, the way we communicate and the way we interact in this global village.

I can’t comprehend electing a president who doesn’t get that. I can’t fathom a president who doesn’t have the everyday understanding of what it means to hear “You’ve Got Mail” or doesn’t have the frame of reference to laugh at the unending spam in our inboxes. These are small things, but things that seem as regular to me as knowing the price of a gallon of milk.

How do you lead a people forward when you are stuck in the past? How do you inspire, elevate, and imagine the greatness that is ahead if you don’t understand the world we must navigate to get to those places?

If you ask me, you can’t. At least not in the way the American people deserve.

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16 Responses to “Imagining Our Tomorrows”

  1. It’s definitely not an age thing. My parents are around McCain’s age; my mother isn’t a real enthusiast, but couldn’t live without email and web research, and my father has become a major computer fan in retirement and uses it for everything.
    I think it’s an age+power thing — McCain is the pointy-haired boss who still has his secretary print out his emails so he can read them. It’s better than Bush, who has openly admitted that he stopped using email when he became president because he didn’t want anyone to be able to find out what he’s doing, but it does betray a serious lack of connection with how the world outside the Beltway works.

  2. Heh. New campaign slogan:

    A net-geek you can believe in 

    Very good point, though, re: net use. It’s a generational divide (though my Grandpa, who lived through the entire 20th century, did use computers.. his daughter, my Mom, does not). But it’s also one of those things that drives a worldview. Looking back? Looking through the net dimly? or Looking forward? 

  3. dang. Sorry, I thought I’d unbolded the last ‘graf.

  4. The question isn’t so much how comfortable or knowledgable he might be with/about computers.  What is important is whether or not he has a recognition of the power of the Internet for more than just political messaging.

    If he doesn’t, then he doesn’t have an understanding of the very people he would be governing. Or at least a significant portion of them.

  5. I find it deeply disturbing that someone who doesn’t even use a computer might be making decisions for our nation (and let’s be honest, decisions that can effect the rest of the world as well). It bothers me on so many levels. Computers are pervasive, they are part of our world as is the Internet. Would a President who didn’t have a clue care if our children are given the educational tools they need to suceed? Ick, I could go on and on but I’ll spare you ;-).

  6. Read a post a little while ago looking at the Obama campaign from a tech-geek perspective, written by Dave Winer: (I got my start in blogging in late 1999 thanks to Dave’s software).

    The Internet destabilizes every hierarchy it contacts. It erases every barrier to entry. The only way to win is to point off-site, in every way you can think of. Win by offering better value, not by locking users in. People will become instant refugees to escape your clutches. Think you’re immune? Think again.

    This is another way to look at the disconnect between Obama and McCain. They’re competing on totally different levels.

  7. I work in tech, so I probably place a higher value on competence with information technology than most voters. That said, it was Obama’s podcast that got me on board the O-Train. Before I subscribed to the podcast, I didn’t know anything about him aside from the fact that he had given a speech at the Democratic convention that had drawn a lot of praise. As I listened to the podcasts, I became almost as impressed with his use of the medium as with the message.

  8. I couldn’t agree with you more, Tracy. And physical age has nothing to do with it. Can you imagine presidents in the last half of the 19th C refusing to embrace telegraphs or Nixon saying he wouldn’t read a fax?
    To be proud of ignorance of the form of communication used by the majority of your voters is not a badge of honor. It’s a profound stupidity.
    But at this point, let’s keep him ignorant and disconnected.  He may have webmasters writing his blog and his daughter suggesting new ideas to whomever that is, but his campaign message will be as far from that electorate as someone campaigning for head of Mexico by doing the rounds in Southern Spain. An ocean apart.

  9. It’s interesting that ill Clinton, one of the 3 people in charge of Hillary’s campaign, does not use email or a Blackberry. I was shocked when I read that the other day. In both McCain and Bill Clinton’s cases, their power — and mindset — set them apart from other Americans, and incapable of understanding a fundamental part of today’s — and tomorrow’s world. Pathetic.

    Apparently the HRC and McCain websites have been imitating the Obama website, but theirs pale by comparison, because they don’t really get the Internet. 

  10. […] With near perfect timing, John McCain proves my point: […]

  11. […] McCain Does Not Know How to Use a Computer June 13, 2008 — dionysianprincess There really wasn’t a catchy headline I could think of for this story – mostly because the truth of the matter is just so absurd. […]

  12. If a candidate is running for president and still using e-mail or texting they are courting disaster.

  13. Tracy – I completely agree.  Computers have changed our lives so fundementally that it would be almost akin to having a president that can’t read.  Unacceptable and unfathomable.
    I saw your clip from PDF ’08.  Go you!

  14. <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    “I find it deeply disturbing that someone who doesn’t even use a computer might be making decisions for our nation (and let’s be honest, decisions that can effect the rest of the world as well).”
    <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

    The former president told Fowler that he had not read the Vanity Fair article. The truth is probably closer to this: one of his aides printed it out for him — Clinton does not use a computer and, as I describe in detail in my just-published book, Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, aides print out emails and blogs — and Clinton read it in the middle of the night, likely turning red-faced and furious and doing as he often does; calling FOBS and yelping about the unfairness of it all and refuting the story point by point where possible or even where not possible.

    Funny how this was not such and important issue when
    Clinton was President.But as usual,the fact he has a (D) beside his name makes up for it right.

    This is such childish desperation  coming from a  group
    of people who probably think a Presidential candidate who’s main claim to experience is having failed at being a community organizer.
    <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    What Did Obama Do As A Community Organizer?
    And is it really a qualification to be president?

    “To be proud of ignorance of the form of communication used by the majority of your voters is not a badge of honor. It’s a profound stupidity.”
    We are so lucky to have such open minded intellectuals
    tearing down  a man  without  having the slightest  clue
    as to  what  they  are  talking  about:
    <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    Wondering No More [Jonah Goldberg]

    <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by “extraordinary.” The reason he doesn’t send email is that he can’t use a keyboard because of the relentless beatings he received from the Viet Cong in service to our country. From the Boston Globe (March 4, 2000):

    McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain’s severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes.

    You people are a real class act,intellectuals and all.

  16. […] for transforming the use of the Internet in political campaigns.  Meanwhile, John McCain outright dissed the Internet as a campaign tool and was dissed for it.  And we all know what happened to John […]

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