At first I felt silly telling people that I am a political blogger. I mean, I have a blog where I do write about politics but referring to myself as a ‘political blogger’ seemed a little fraudulent. I’m nothing like Politico or Daily Kos or Huffington Post to announce yourself a political blogger at SXSW where folks are quick to connect...well...I just didn’t want to be all “I’m Heather Barmore and I write about politics” unless of course “writing about politics” means “I write maybe once a month and it’s mostly about women or a rant and here’s my URL. You’re welcome”. That was until my second morning in Austin when I met up with a few Coloradans (a proud group, they are) and started chatting up a guy who does Internet marketing out of Boulder. First of all, I had no idea the amount of interest generated just by telling people that you’re a lobbyist. The intrigue is strong, I suppose because a) I’m at a conference for tech folks and b) the only image of a lobbyist people have ever seen is Nick Naylor of Thank You For Smoking fame. After I tell people that I’m not a tobacco/gun/alcohol lobbyist or as they say a “good” lobbyist, they, of course, are naturally curious. But then why was I there, at SXSW, eating chorizo breakfast tacos instead of out lobbying in my power suit and enjoying a $45 steak for lunch?
I’ve long asked myself the same question where I allow the two things I am most passionate about - politics and social media - to come together. Inside the Beltway types and social media types are both my people but I’ve found that no matter how mainstream Twitter has become, the two sides are reluctant of one another. It used to be that conversations about politics were kept under wraps. To discuss ones political leanings at a dinner party was grounds for being escorted out by the host. But now that we live in a world where every federal agency, Senator and pundit can write in 140 characters or less, it gives way for constituents and citizens to communicate with those who make the laws. Which is huge. Whereas people used to turn on the evening news and then it would end and so would the conversation, now we can have 24 hour discussions about issues that most affect our friends and families. I continue to be amazed by the power (the people powered revolution as the folks from the David All Group discussed) that people can harness to stop or advance legislation. People are talking. People are engaged. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So why did I take my wee blog to SXSW? Because I want to know what’s next. I want to hear more about Votizen and Americans Elect. I still want to talk about voter apathy and why women feel so disengaged and that fine line between open discussion about politics and boring people to tears. Techies attend SXSW to start a dialogue or keep it going and now us politicos - however few and far between - are there to do the same. That’s why.
Image of Vice President Al Gore and Votizen investor Sean Parker courtesy of CNET