Politicians Love to Talk
POLITICAL REALIGNMENTS OCCUR on a regular basis in American politics when a major event or crisis triggers a reassessment of America's direction. The triggering event touches off a wave of renewed interest in the political process, especially by a large new generation of voters eager to be heard. The resulting political debate and election outcome sets the general course of public policy for four decades, until a new wave of change causes the country to alter its course again.
For that debate to take place and have the impact it must have on the nation's political psyche, as many people as possible must actually be involved in the conversation. But how involved the electorate can be is limited, at least in part, by the capacity and reach of the communication technologies of the particular era. Fortunately for America, the long waves of technological change and innovation (Atkinson 2005) that have occurred in American history have oscillated in harmony with its generational cycles, so that as the nation finds the need to confront new challenges, the ability to debate those questions in wider and wider circles with more and more information has also been possible. Each time the country faced fundamental questions about who it was as a nation, and what values it stood for, the country was able to harness the newest in communication technologies to meet the demands of its political discourse.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the ability to communicate the same information at the same time almost anywhere in the country played a key role in America's debate over its most enduring political contradictions. The first practical application of Samuel F. B. Morse's “electric