During the presidential campaign of 1996, at a televised debate with Bill Clinton, Republican candidate Bob Dole included, in his closing statement, the address of his website. The web was new then, and the conventions around it that are banal today—things like the ending of addresses with a “dot-com” or a “dot-gov”—were not yet second nature to the candidate. "If you really want to get involved, just tap into my home page,” Dole announced, painstakingly spelling out his site—“w-w-w-dot-dole-kemp-96-org”—without that final, crucial dot.
The whole thing, even during the early days of the World Wide Web, was awkward. And when people did come to the GOP ticket’s dot-org site, more awkwardness ensued: So many of them arrived at the same time that the site, unprepared for all the TV-based traffic, immediately crashed.
This makes a pretty good metaphor for the way politics tends to embrace pop-technological innovations: enthusiastically, if occasionally awkwardly. Roosevelt had the radio; Kennedy had the television; politicians of the 21st century, however, have the Internet—and the technologies associated with that medium have a tendency to reduce politicians as media figures, rather than enlarge them. Last month, President Obama, in a Buzzfeed post meant to promote the refurbished healthcare.gov site, experimented with a selfie stick. And last week the House Judiciary Committee issued a press release criticizing the president’s immigration enforcement plan that was composed entirely of animated GIFs. Celebrities name-checked (loopy-image-checked?) in the document included Jennifer Lawrence, Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Britney Spears, Emma Stone, and a half-human sea-dweller named Ariel.