Who Cares About Your Permanent Record?

A lot of old fogies are getting bent out of shape over the idea that 20 or 30 years from now today’s teenagers are going to get hammered by random screeds and bad dating habits they posted on blogs or MySpace. Can I chime in and say I really don’t think it’s all that big a deal? By the time any of this becomes relevant, the electorate will have matured enough that they really don’t care about this.

First of all, a lot of what’s edgy today simply won’t be the least bit controversial any more. Just consider what today’s political class from both sides of the aisle engaged in in their youth: draft dodging, pot smoking, interracial dating (and in some cases marriage), homosexuality, divorce, and a dozen other things that would have been considered the kiss of death for a mainstream politician when they were in college. The fact is, the mainstream moves as the youth grows up. As long as you’re squarely in the middle of the mainstream for your age group you have nothing to worry about.

Will a few bloggers here or there lose a job opportunity over an ill-timed post? Yes, but ultimately businesses will adjust. They’ll have to or they won’t be able to hire anyone. They’ve already adjusted to tattoos. Time was you couldn’t hope to get a corporate job with a visible tattoo. That changed when 25% of college grads started sporting tattoos, and businesses that refused them started having trouble hiring enough people. The same will happen with MySpace. And eventually of course it becomes the people with the tattoos, or blogs, or MySpace pages that are doing the hiring; and then, guess what? They’ll be looking for more people like themselves.

Will Republican pit bulls latch onto every blog post they can spin against the poster and scream about it until the mainstream media begins to echo them? Probably. They already spend a great deal of time digging up old photos from antiwar rallies and books by pacifist priests to try to smear politicians they don’t like. Heck, maybe in 20 years even the Democrats will have figured out how to play this game too. It isn’t like the Republicans haven’t left enough evidence of racism, bigotry, hypocrisy and other far more damaging political sins in their pasts. By the very nature of conservatism, their sins grow in importance with time while those of progressives diminish. Strom Thurmond used to be a mainstream politician. Now expressing admiration for him can you kicked out of Congress. I have no doubt that in the not-too-distant future the anti-gay broadsides of today are going to seem as evil as the anti-integration broadsides of fifty years ago.

The only difference is that Republicans have become very adept at herding the media into focusing very minutely on their talking points, while completely ignoring and deflecting any vitriol directed at them. Just witness Dick Cheney’s continued evasion of the issue of his draft dodging. Even more tellingly: why in 2004 was so much more attention paid to John Kerry’s service in Vietnam than to George W’s politically connected draft dodging? If the Democrats had half the spin talent the Republicans do, George W. would never have survived a primary, much less a general election. If they had the willingness the Republicans do to simply ignore the attacks and say they don’t matter, rather than running around like chickens with their heads cut off every time their enemies calumniate them, Kerry would be president. (Well, actually, no he wouldn’t. Al Gore would, but that’s another story.) Democrats, stop trying to satisfy the people who want you to lose! It doesn’t matter what the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Idiocy says about you, or what Veterans for Flag Worship thinks of your nuanced positions. Nothing you do will ever satisfy these whack jobs and gas bags. Stop trying and start focusing on what you stand for. Define yourself rather than letting the right wing attack dogs define you.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes, blogging and MySpace. Bottom line: what you say matters today. Tomorrow: not so much. No one has the time or the inclination to read through hundreds of old posts or search the WayBack machine for every archived version of your MySpace page. If they do (i.e. Republican attack dogs) they were never on your side anyway. They’ve already decided not to like you, and now they’re just looking for ammunition to rationalize their decision. Democrats who don’t figure this out (John Edwards) deserve to lose. Who knows? Maybe it’s better if no Democrat ever figures this out, the party fades away, and in twenty or thirty years when today’s MySpace crowd is running things in Washington we can have a real opposition party that doesn’t kowtow before Republican idols.

Leave a Reply