Mitch McConnell talks to BuzzFeed about the Web, the election, and his plans to let Democrats take a few votes if he becomes Majority Leader. “I kind of like this new environment.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told BuzzFeed that while many of his generation mourn the fall of newspapers, he is celebrating the rise of social media — precisely because of the havoc it has wreaked on an old media landscape that, in his view, favored the Democrats.
“Let me tell you, I think the New York Times monopoly is over,” McConnell said. “Arthur Sulzberger used to have the biggest megaphone in America. And all you have to do is look at the dwindling size of newspapers, even one as big as his.”
McConnell, 70, spoke to BuzzFeed in his office overlooking the National Mall; he had tweeted of his plans for the interview earlier in the day from his iPad.
“To the extent that there isn’t media domination like there was in the days NBC, ABC, CBS the New York Times, the Washington Post, particularly since most people on my side of the aisle feel they had a pretty obvious bias … those days are over,” he said. “I kind of like this new environment. I think its much more competitive, much more balanced."
“From a conservative point of view we have a better chance of competing in the marketplace of ideas,” he said.
McConnell noted that the same disruption roiling the national media landscape has been felt in his home state of Kentucky, and particularly at the Courier-Journal, once the state’s most dominant source of political news. The paper “recently hired a business type guy. With a tech background. Totally a nontraditional type of publisher,” McConnell said, adding that, “the message is pretty clear. They’re trying to figure out how to save the business and position it for the future.”
The four-term senator, who prior to coming to Washington served as Jefferson County’s top executive, has watched as technology has shaped not only how politicians communicate with the public but also its basic operations over his 28 years in office.
“Let me tell you about 1984. We called collect. We went to a pay phone, and we called collect. And in those days, you know, you could not only get your quarter or whatever it was back, you had enough time to give ‘em the number. So we’d stop at a pay phone and call in collect, get the quarter back, leave ‘em a number and they’d call back,” McConnell recalled.
“On commercials, If you wanted to look at a rough cut, they had to overnight it you. And you’d put it in the VCR and see what you thought about it, call ‘em up and say ‘this part works, this part doesn’t seem to work.’ When they finally got the rough cut turned into a final product, they had to then overnight it to the station,” McConnell said of the multiday process.
“In the 1990 reelect, we had a car phone. But it didn’t work in most parts of the state and we were still using fax machines,” McConnell said with a laugh. “By 1996, it was sort of the beginning of some kind of use of the internet, the car phone was working better by 1996, we were still using fax machines and the way in which you transmitted your commercials to the stations still had not really changed.”
After his 1996 victory, the changes accelerated.