Artifacts of Election 1996
Today, political campaign Web sites raise enormous amounts of money and organize grassroots campaigns, and Bloggers are the latest media darlings.
But this process didn't happen overnight. The presidential election of 1996 was the first one in which the Web was a factor, and an online exhibit hosted at http://ftp.archive.org/96_Elections/index.htm provides a fascinating look at the first primitive uses to which the Web was put by politicians of yesteryear.
Included are complete copies of the Web sites of the Federal Elections Commission, the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as those of the Green, Libertarian, and Reform parties.
It's hard to take these old sites seriously - their crude, hokey layouts look laughable with the benefit of eight years of hindsight, making it almost impossible to recapture the awe with which they were greeted by partisans of the day. Still, echoes of the present campaign, in which the GOP accuses Kerry of "flip-flopping" are clearly present in these ancient diatribes (on April 25th, 1996, the RNC posted this item: "Clinton Flip-Flop" on Flag Amendment "Divisive").
By carefully studying this recorded matter, one can see all the elements in today's election in play: the politics of dread vs. the politics of hope, the subtle innuendo of sarcasm, the secret code words, the Orwellian snakiness of language, in other words, everything America is likely to go through in the next few months before the November election.
There's nothing new under the Sun, or on the Web. Spend a few minutes with this exhibit and you'll see exactly what I mean.