Presidential Campaign Shows Political Power Shifting to Network's Edge

NEWS ANALYSIS: The source of political power in the United States has moved to the edge of the network, but so far there hasn’t been a good way to tap it.

Political Power Shift 2

I was talking with my old friend Jock Gill, who had called me late on a Sunday evening to rekindle a discussion we'd had years ago about how to leverage the Internet in the political process.

Gill, a retired White House staffer and now a part-time political consultant, had been a major source of inspiration for a book I'd written about the Internet and the political process, but that book was written twenty years ago, and naturally things have changed.

Gill's timing was fortunate because I'd been formulating my ideas on how the center of power in the Western world had changed. Political and economic power had resided in the center of society, those with enough money and connections to influence what happens in government, but that seems to be changing.

Instead, the source of power had moved to the great decentralized world of the Internet and the people who were controlling politics, business and economic activity were doing it through a fast broadband connection.

This is more than a theoretical move. You can see the power of the people at the edge of the network simply by watching the 2016 presidential campaign play out. The two most dynamic players as this is written are Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for President, and Donald Trump, who is wrapping up his nomination quest by essentially running the delegate table.

What's unusual about these two candidates is that neither is part of the center of their respective parties. Trump is far enough from being at the center of the Republican Party that the GOP establishment did everything it could to prevent him from winning the nomination. The Republicans failed in their effort because those pesky voters kept voting for Trump despite their best efforts.

The story is the same for the Democrats. Sanders was the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history until he officially joined the Democratic Party in 2015 when he launched his presidential campaign.

Despite the late start to his campaign, he has managed to out-raise his establishment-backed opponent through millions of small donations, and is gaining the mind share of a significant number of voters, notably the young and independent voters who haven't been active members of the Democratic Party.

In both cases, the people at the edge of the network are making their collective will known, despite the active opposition of their respective parties. The one-time power brokers are finding that they no longer have unbridled power to accomplish their ends.

As a result, Trump keeps racking up primary after primary, state after state. Sanders is still winning primaries at a stage when nearly all campaign observers assumed Hillary Clinton would have the nomination locked up.

So who are those people at the edge of the network that are forcing their will on the traditional parties? They are the masses of people with fast Internet connections who have access to information and they have a means to express their desires.

Couple this with the seething rage of millions of current and former middle class voters who were far better off a decade ago than they are now, but who are educated, motivated and who have a desire to change their circumstances.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...