Senator John Edwards took the stage at Gnomedex and mostly responded to questions from the audience. Much of the discussion centered on language and politics. "The next president of United State will be a single candidate who doesn't sound like a politican. It's not easy to do in an environment when reporters are asking questions...it's intense, lights are on, cameras are rolling and you have to think quickly and don't have a lot of time. I am trying to retrain and condition myself not to say what is careful and cautious. I'm getting better at it, but it's hard. We have been trained to do the wrong thing."
In the language of the blogosphere, Edwards is talking about more transparency and authenticity.
However, he said that integrity, character and leadership, not language (such as the way the Republicans have bandied about 'Patriot' Act and the 'Death' Tax) or even issues decide presidential elections. He said a battle is going on for the soul of the Democratic party. He chastised his party's focus, saying that trianagulation, moderation, careful political maneuvering, half steps and moving to the political center is not the way to go. "My view is that you have to exhibit strength and ability to lead by big ideas you are willing to stand behind...we won't win any other way."
People don't have the information to make informed decisons, and they are not engaged, Edwards said. Top down kills engagement, with politicians spoon feeding information that is personally useful to them to the public feed info to public. He called it a "plastic veneer," which makes people distrustful and cynical. "Anything we can do to give real access to reailty, and not cute political phrases would be good," Edwards said. He is even entertaining the idea of a reality TV show. "I've thought about it alot, but haven't figure out how to do it."
Mitch Ratcliffe recommended giving a free seat on the campaign bus to someone who records what's going on every day, and allow citizens to get the "backstage stuff," as Edwards phrased it. "I want the country to know who I am, not the plastic doll verison who always looks perfect," Edwards added. By being more transparent, a candidate can put pressure on other candidates to do the same, changing the dynamics of political elections.
Edwards said he came to learn from the geek crowd at Gnomedex, which didn't ask him about Moore's Law and its impact on tribal warfare or search engine optimization for political campaigns. As I wrote yesteday in anticipation of Edwards' appearance at Gnomedex, his "campaign" takes advantage of blogging, podcasting, text messaging and vlogging to get the message out and connect more directly with people. The Internet and related tools have the"potential to change our democracy and get more people engaged in a more serious, substantive way," Edwards said.
Net neutrality came up, and Edwards said something about the Internet and freedom. He cited the dangers to privacy and freedoms in the current environment, and admonished the current administration, who he said believe they are above the law. Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to get into the issues. But the drive by was worthwhile to get a sense of the"candidate."