212 event, a free talk by Arianna Huffington moderated by Kate Kaye, senior editor of ClickZ.
Because I went more for the content than the community, I didn't network much at all, pretty much making a bee line for a good seat in order to hear what Huffington had to say. In many ways, the talk was one of a single tension -- Kaye wanted (and the audience wanted) Huffington to talk about the impact of online marketing and advertising on the political campaign process, while Huffington seemed to want to stick to politics and campaigning in general. That might be appropriate on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, but exit polls (read: the conversation during the elevator ride down afterward) indicate that people wanted more on-topic discussion.
Regardless, Huffington had some interesting stuff to say. She criticized Clinton's use of terrorism and fear as a campaign tool, questioned the practice of hiring campaign managers who've lost previous campaigns, claimed that this year's election cycle marks the "first real Internet campaign," suggested that primary campaigns should be run more mindfully that someone from the party will be running -- indicating that primary campaigns shouldn't give the main election's opposition party tools to use against the party's representative -- and proposed that the print vs. Web debate is yesterday's news.
That led to what might be the soundbite of the evening: "The question of print vs. online seems to me to be an obsolete debate. It's like the old barroom argument: Ginger or Mary Ann? It's 2008; let's have a three way."
In fact, that's my primary criticism of the evening's gambit. Online campaigning -- online marketing -- isn't that interesting when considered outside the context of the overall campaign or marketing strategy. This campaign isn't about online advertising. It's about reaching voters in the right way at the right time in the right place. Multiple media can accomplish that goal.
The Democratic candidates seem to understand that, with Obama focusing on the youth vote and using inclusive language online -- just as the Republicans and far right have taken to the air waves with talk radio. Maybe the next election cycle will be the first integrated campaign.
I've not read a lot of Huffington's writing, but on the basis of tonight, I might have to check out her forthcoming book, Right Is Wrong. Like she said, society (and culture and media) doesn't have to accept the framework of the right.
Just like we don't have to look at things in terms of online vs. offline.