The 2008 tv election

Mary Dejevsky is right: it's still tv, not the Internet, that really matters in elections. This week's debate, for example, got a tv viewership of 63.2 million -- making it one of the top ten most watched debates in American history. Then there's Obama's decision to buy 30 minutes of prime CBS and NBC airtime (on October 29th at 8.00 pm eastern) to run an extended advertisement for his candidacy. As University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato explained:

"Obama's theme is not just change but unity, so he's appealing to the whole nation rather than a handful of tossup states. He wants to win the popular vote by a good margin, which will enable him to govern."

And thus Obama has invested in television, and not the Internet, to reach the whole nation with his 30 minute commercial.

But the real reason why it's still tv and not the Internet that really matters in this election is Sarah Palin. When historians write about the real meaning of the 2008 election, they will focus on the television interviews that Palin conducted with ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS' Katie Couric as well as her Gwen Ifill moderated debate with Joe Biden (and, for entertainment, of course, they will watch Tina Fey's parody of Palin on NBC's Saturday Night Live). Palin's performances plunged American Presidential politics to a new nadir in intellectual ignorance, linguistic cheesiness and populist farce. The Couric interview, in particular, revealed a barely literate woman unable to string a coherent sentence together. Highlights -- if that's the right word -- of Palin's amateur performances included such memorably garbled and banal statements as:

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia."

"Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet."

When everything digital about the 2008 elections are forgotten, the Palin tv performances will still be clearly remembered by American voters. Television has given Palin a kind of immortality. Sarah Palin -- in spite of her Web 2.0 style contempt for traditional television journalists -- has given old media new life.