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John Edwards meets the Gnomedexers

Random notes and thoughts on watching a politician talk with a roomful of alpha geeks.

Right after Dave Dederer of the band, The Presidents of the United States of America, former Senator John Edwards, once candidate for vice president of the United States, addresses the crowd at Gnomedex.

I am curious to see how this group of largely libertarian folks who believe that code trumps politics will react. It's like having a ticket to watch a bear vs. dogs fight. And the Senator is late.

Edwards@Gnomedex, by Scott Beale 

(Photo: Scott Beale)

Chris takes a moment to tell everyone to be very thoughtful rather than angry, since John Edwards is here. "I have faith that we can keep it civil. I have faith that we can learn and that they can learn." That kind of preface isn't necessary in neighborhoods where politics are still thought to be relevant.

"I think this is where America is going," Edwards begins. "Not listening to speeches and people talk, but having an actual conversation."

Net neutrality comes up early: If we want this technology to be used by everybody and not just people who have money, we need... Net neutrality." 

The "speech" ends in five minutes. He starts to take questions and statements.

Marc Canter says he is a "third-generation red diaper baby" and Edwards has never heard the term. The Democrats are so different today that Marc has to explain that his grandfather was a communist. "I'm looking for some balls [in a candidate]," Marc says. "What we see out here in the real world is a bunch of whimpy ball-less Democrats who won't take it to the mat.'

"If the Democratic party wants to lead this country, we have to show a little backbone and courage." He talks in terms of foregoing weasel words that politicians and standing up for real principles. Universal healthcare is one issue he mentions, and he adds that Net neutrality could be one of those issues.

"The problem is that we're so trained over so long a period of time that being normal and authentic requires you shed that conditioning. Most politicians want to stay in their safe zones...and never are real. The next president of the United States will be the candidate who doesn't sound like a politician."

So, I just stood up for 20 minutes to ask my question. I've suggested that Senator Edwards, should he be running for office, to make a seat on his campaign or bus available to a blogger/vlogger who has complete access to him. It would allow citizens to inject reality into the media dominated debate.

"[Citizens] have a real reason for being cynical and distrustful," because of the top-down, marketing-centric politics of today. Edwards says anything we can do to inject reality into television politics will be helpful.

Steve Gillmor asks for Edwards' thinking would be applied to technology policy on behalf of citizens. He refers to the Senator's trial experience.... "I think if you spend a lot of your life taking on the cause of individual people, I think you have a lot of experience in being able to convice people about the [direction the country should be going.] Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, he had the ability to bring the country to where he was because he was persuasive.... Every trial is a battle for credibility. Whoever the jury trusts they will follow. I think exactly the same applies in politics."  

"I want the country to know who I really am, not the plastic doll version. If someone does that, it will change the entire dynamic."

As Senator Edwards concludes, there is a standing ovation. Good show.