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Dick Morris: “an entirely new age in American politics”

     I begin to understand why Bill Clinton loved him.  Dick Morris–still maneuvering the broad intersection of power and opinion, media and money–is quick and cool with sticky soundbites.  He’s a man of the next not the last campaign (likely in Morris’ business to be in Brazil, or Japan or Russia).  He’s unsentimental about the interests and a lot of the people he’s served, including himself.  In conversation he got right to the point about the end of the Media Age (Lyndon Johnson and later Richard Nixon bombing the grassrootsy politics of Barry Goldwater and George McGovern with TV spots) and the start of the Internet Era.  In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the power-to-the-the-people moments, both right and left, “lasted like the Prague summer,” Morris chuckled.  But now people power is back.


     “From 1972 to 1999 or 2000 we had what I see as the Media Age in American politics–which empowered guys like me who do television commercials, fundraisers, fat-cat donors, special interests and a handful of people who became the new political elite.  But starting, I think, with Clinton beating impeachment in ’99, and going through the Dean campaign of 2004… the media is losing its power in politics and the Internet is gaining it.”


     And still, apparently sophisticated people say “what’s a blog?” and give Dick Morris the same blank stare they give you and me at the mention of this mysterious Internet transformation.  I wanted to hear what he tells the innocents and the doubters.  “Well,” Morris said, “how do you think Bill Clinton survived impeachment but for blogs and MoveOn and all of that?  Where did the anti-globalization movement gets its strength from?  Certainly not the mainstream media!  Where did the right wing get its strength from?  And the anti-Clinton stuff?  Where is the Dean candidacy from? 


     “If you just read the New York Times and Washington Post you get blindsided by all this stuff.  It’s the new age in which everybody is a publisher of a newspaper and they can circulate it to anyone who’s interested in reading it.  And that period of freedom–that free exchange of ideas, unmediated by who has a station license or can afford paper and ink–really I think is just the essence of the Internet era.”


     We’re living in Internet time, kids, and we’re not going back.  We got here, in Morris’s quick summary, by push and pull.  The push is the shriveling audience for network news.  Lyndon Johnson used his famous three-set console to keep an eye on ABC, CBS and NBC and see what 70 percent of the country was watching with him.  The nightly news exposure gets 18 percent of the electorate these days.  And though some pols will triple their TV buys to make up the difference, “it’s the last gasp of a dying system.”  The pull, Morris says, is the fact that one quarter of the country is on a computer during prime time; 70 percent of Americans have regular Internet access.  “It’s an entirely new age in American politics.”


     Dick Morris actually trumps Joe Trippi with Internet bullishness.  “The essence of the Internet,” he said, “is not that it provides a new set of eyes and ears, but that it gives the voters a mouth, which they’ve never had in the media.  The impact of that is absolutely historic.” 


     But Morris makes it a mighty Republican tool in 2004, especially in the hands of Karl Rove, a direct-mail master.  With email, Rove simply saves the postage.  “Let’s remember,” Morris observed, “that the Internet is more male than female, more right-wing than left-wing, more upscale than downscale.”  The vast right-wing conspiracy which grew up outside the mainstream media is savvy now about spontaneous on-line community building.  Not all the grassroots on the right are Astroturf.  “The Republican base is seething with activity,” Morris said.  “Also, c’mon, you can’t think of any community that is better connected, and better wired to itself, than the religious community.  There are all kinds of prayer groups around the country, and the fact is that people who attend church regularly vote Republican by 2 to 1,  and those who don’t vote Democratic by 2 to 1.  The gay marriage issue is going to accentuate that divide.  So I think this kind of viral bottom-up growth (which is what the Internet is all about) will be as much Republican as Democratic.”


     RSVP was the label the old Boston pols used to put on guys like Dick Morris, meaning: ” Rattle Snake.  Very Poisonous.”  But he’s our kind of rattlesnake.  Hear him out here.

{ 11 } Comments

  1. Anonymous | December 11, 2003 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Dick Morris is absolutely right: the Internet is important because it changes voters from being an audience to being participants. As long as the Internet is as available as it is today,people all across the political spectrum will be able to have unfiltered access to others. As time goes on, the Internet should be more available to groups that now underutilize it for political purposes, lessening the existing biases.

  2. Anonymous | December 12, 2003 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Dick Morris is a mealy mouthed sleazoid know-it-all politcal operative. Please point out to me anything original he has said or thought…

    RSVP as is repulsive, sleazy,venal putz.

  3. Anonymous | December 12, 2003 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    This is more responsive to the above comment by Robert Birnbaum…

    When has anyone not done anything to further their own agenda? Everyone does what is necessary to further their survival, it’s called instinct and we as `animals’ or any form thereof have this embedded in us. Whether some realize it or not, maybe in his own mind he is right, of which I’m sure you think you’re right.

    As for the article, I read so many articles daily I get lost, and I take everything with a grain of salt. My only comments about the actual basis of the article, is, yes the Internet works great for reaching people. GenX’ers and those after them will more than likely be reached moreso digitally than by any other medium. With the Internet you’re obviously aware that an advertiser/campaigner/whomever can send out messages to pagers, phones, PDA’s, and all other sorts of devices which makes people aware of the seller.

    Most GenX’ers and those who follow are either where let’s see… Clubs, bars, parties, having sex, you name it. Think they have time to watch Martha Stewart? Let a candidate grow some balls for once and advertise after Sex and the City or WWE Raw and see how many more votes he gets than the next guy.

    My two cents.
    J. Oquendo sil @ politrix . org

  4. Anonymous | December 12, 2003 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    J. Oquendo opines:

    “When has anyone not done anything to further their own agenda? Everyone does what is necessary to further their survival, it’s called instinct and we as `animals’ or any form thereof have this embedded in us. Whether some realize it or not, maybe in his own mind he is right, of which I’m sure you think you’re right.”

    You have to consider what two cents is worth these days. This is a prime piece of fuzzy solipsism, starting with collapsing the distinction between physical survival (food, shelter, health) and political or economic survival (in Morris’ case, maintaining his career so he can afford prostitutes for his foot fetishism). We are all animals (dunno why the quotes around that), no doubt about that, but I’ve never sniffed any President’s butt to figure out my place in a mammalian dominance hierarchy. As for no one working against their own agenda (I believe that’s what J is trying to say), just look at the White House to see where conflicts between agendas lead to actions which subvert what is ostensibly sought. (For example, barring nations from work in Iraq while simultaneously asking them to forgive Iraq’s debt — smooth move, that.)

    Morris has shown himself to be a facile liar on more than one occasion and one who’d rather embed himself in power than speak truth to it. Even other animals can sacrifice comfort or even life for a greater good.

    Thanks for the reference to politrix.org, though, it’s an interesting site. Looks like it’s running Slashcode.

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  6. RickVallen | March 13, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Nice post and blog
    Thanks for sharing

  7. Chuck | November 25, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Dick Morris is not top of my list but is on my list of commentary to consider. Thanks. Fold Up Treadmill Chuck

  8. meubles de cuisine | November 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    NEW AGE
    devis cuisine en ligne

  9. Rob | February 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Dick Morris was over his head

  10. Mercado de Divisas | April 7, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Exccellent, thanks. Great post, thanks for sharing, it is very good for me. Mercado de Divisas

  11. dizi | May 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    “From 1972 to 1999 or 2000 we had what I see as the Media Age in American politics–which empowered guys like me who do television commercials, fundraisers, fat-cat donors, special interests and a handful of people who became the new political elite. But starting, I think, with Clinton beating impeachment in ’99, and going through the Dean campaign of 2004… the media is losing its power in politics and the Internet is gaining it.”