As the Presidential race shifts into high gear, between now and Tuesday November 6 you’ll hear a lot about what each candidate has done in their past both personally and professionally. Just watch – everything from unnamed sources to Joe Smith, the former college roommate of Mitt Romney will surface with stories about events from a long time ago. Whether it’s ass-grabbing (Arnold Schwarzenegger), pot smoking (Bill Clinton) or just plain stupidity (George W. Bush), political elections unearth very interesting nuggets about a candidate’s past. From a PR perspective an election-year is like the Super Bowl. You have the best players in the business coaching, strategizing, positioning, defending, and scripting the candidates through what typically is a brutal fight. Not only do I expect 2012 to be one of the best election cycles we’ve witnessed (by best I mean most violent) I believe it will be the beginning of the end of how we judge presidential hopefuls. Sure social media has already had an enormous effect on how the campaigns fund raise, recruit, and influence voters, but we’re only scratching the surface of how technology will disrupt the business of politics.
Right now it’s possible that a future President of the United States is entering their senior year in high school somewhere in one of our fifty-nifty states. This future POTUS likely has a Facebook account and is probably a pretty social person, which means he or she frequents parties where photos are taken of folks doing everything from beer pong to bong hits, or the occasional dance party with a little help from a friend named Molly. Whatever it is, “it” is being photographed, recorded, tagged and archived minute by minute, and it’ll outlive the very subjects it displays.
In the not so distant future we’ll not rely on former roommates, neighbors, business partners, or teammates to provide a glimpse into the past doings of a candidate, we’ll find it on or own – or it will find us. We’ll not hear from a third party about what someone did, we’ll see a FB post in 2042 from something the candidate wrote back in 2012. Fifty-years from now, 77 year-old Prince Harry will still be reminded of his wild August night in Vegas including a competitive game of strip billiards. This stuff will never go away and that’s what will make future elections so exciting.
You’ve heard it before, necessity is the mother of invention, and I’m confident an entire industry will grow to scrub/sanitize/disinfect our past – but it will never (completely) work. Even if a Stanford grad creates a Neuralyzer like the one used by Agent K, nothing can erase our digital past. For now we’ll have to be patient while being bombarded with the constant “he did that – she said so” dribble that’s likely to come from both political parties. But the future is coming and even better, so is the past. I can’t wait!