Another technology was said to overcome key barriers between the voter and the candidate: the barriers of distance, of time, of inertia, and of crowd psychology. It brought to the physically remote voter a type of first-hand information he had never had before.
There was great excitement. Would this new technology prick into quicker, more coherent action our unwieldy democratic giant? Or with its shining novelty would its seeming power too be gone? What were the inherent political potentialities of this new technology? Aside from the immense publicity value which its newness gave it, what could it actually effect in a presidential election?
The new technology was remarkable. It had found a way to dispense with political middlemen. In a fashion it had restored the demos upon which republican government is founded. No candidate would be able to stand up to it who was unprepared to enlighten the electorate. It potentially gave to every member of the electorate the possibility of a direct reaction to the candidates themselvs. It reproduced to some degree, for the first time in the United States, the conditions of the Athenian democracy where every voter, for himself, could hear and judge the candidates.
The year was 1924: Ã¢â‚¬Å“…America finds herself this year in the act of virtually choosing her chief executive by an instrument that was up to a brief two years ago generally considered a freakish fad.Ã¢â‚¬Â
“Politics,” the newspapers said, was “radioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s next big job.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is the radio, heavy with its destiny, leading us to a day when all men will join in to actively work for the righteous government of the land they live in?Ã¢â‚¬Â
The days of the old-time campaign were numbered if not entirely gone. All the notables of the party whizzed their persuasive words via wireless.
And all the people would benefit: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Let a legislator now commit himself to some policy that is obviously senseless, and the editorial writers must first proclaim his imbecility to the community. But let the radiophone in the legislative halls of the future flash his absurdities into space and a whole state hears them at once.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Thus informed, the citizenry would not be able to plead ignorance. “[R]adio can and should bring to practically every citizen full knowledge of the issues which affect the lives of the American people. Through its aid the candidates can speak directly to the people. No longer can any man or woman entitled to a vote conscientiously plead ignorance of the issues involved as an excuse for remaining home on election day.”
And the citizenry would march to the polls. “Broadcasting the proceedings of the great National Conventions has aroused such national interest that the greatest poll of votes ever cast at a Presidential election will result.” (Actually, the 1924 election had the lowest voter turnout of any election to that time — 48.9%.)
In 1924, we were absolutely confident that the voters were going to be in the driver’s seat.
“Because of the far-reaching radio these hundred-per cent. American institutions Ã¢â‚¬â€œ fixed political methods, bosses and oratory Ã¢â‚¬â€œ are going to have to be done over into a twentieth cenentury mold, to meet the exacting taste of Brooklyn newsboys, of college professors and of home-keeping females. Whether conditions will be improved orwrecked by the revolution is beside the point. The thing is going to happen. It is happening.”
A revolution was underway. “Here is the entirely new political public that the radio has tapped. It is not necessarily a more intelligent public. But at any rate it is a new one and it has never been broken to the seasoned old claptrap. It is a large public, usually in political prognostication assigned to the contingent of General Apathy. It can no longer be trusted to stay there. And that is one reason why the politicians are up against a revolution.”