Founding Fathers on Election Day 2012

Today is election day. People will be up through the night awaiting the results. We’re unlikely to know who will be president until tomorrow, at the earliest. I assume the same was true for elections held at the infancy of this country. The similarities and, especially, differences between the election landscape now compared to 1787 are fascinating if you consider what the Founding Fathers would make of the world today.

Think of how each of us consumes the information that presumably goes into the matrix of how we now decide to vote. We check our Facebook accounts and are inundated with small bits of info from friends across the country (and sometimes world) as well as “sponsored” posts from various interested parties. We are influenced, albeit nominally, when our good friend changes his profile picture to support a particular candidate. We are asked by a candidate to remind our social network to vote. A quick check of the morning news on television is marred by mostly ominous and apocalyptic political ads. Maps colored in blue and red flash before our eyes constantly; a serious news story is now about the latest poll.

These campaigns know where we live, what we search for on Google or music we listen to on Spotify/Pandora, when we watch television or check the news online, and use that information to further their agenda. Some would call that manipulation, others may see that as simple human advancement. Whatever you call it, the Founding Fathers likely wouldn’t recognize many facets of our political discourse. The debate of Big vs Small Government remains intact, but the multitude of ways that discussion is conducted has grown exponentially and morphed into something of its own.

Would Thomas Jefferson have more Twitter followers than George Washington? How would Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and/or John Jay tweet? Would anonymous comments be allowed for Federalist No. 10 online? What filter would Ben Franklin use on a picture of the signing of the Constitution for Instagram? Thoughts on whether John Adams would go negative in TV ads? These questions and others are interesting to think about as we march toward the end of the current election cycle.

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Update: Looks like I’m not the only one thinking about what the Founders would think of today’s election.

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