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Mark McKinnon, Republican political advisor, president of Maverick Media, and the vice-chairman of Public Strategies, Inc., joined the Shorenstein Center for an event discussing "The Hotter the Water, the Stronger the Tea Party."
McKinnon opened his talk with a video clip that showed highlights of the past few months in the run-up to the midterm elections. He observed that the election of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown was "the first signal that something significant was happening" in the shifting of American politics. After the "historic, transcendent campaign with Obama," McKinnon said, he doesn't see America ever having a "popular president again," because complex issues — international involvement, domestic economic restructuring and changes in media technology — are dividing the country.
Painting a picture of Washington today, McKinnon explained that there is no longer the bipartisanship that once existed. "You get in trouble for working with the other side," he said. A "complete breakdown of trust in politics and government" has resulted in "voter anger and frustration, and a rise of the citizen politician" — someone who has had a career outside of politics and who brings in outside experience. McKinnon said he fears that the system we have now is "so poisonous that good people are leaving, and it's not attracting good people to get in."
The "mainstream media is dying," McKinnon stated, and as a result, politicians like Sarah Palin who use social media are able to have complete control over their media image, and do not have to answer to a larger media entity that would hold them accountable and ask them questions.
Elections are being reshaped by the "increasing influence of outside money," McKinnon said. "Campaigns are being outspent" by unions and special interests. As a result, "voters don't feel like they can effect elections anymore." McKinnon said that he is a "strong advocate" of election reform.
"Anger is translating to action," McKinnon observed, and has caused the rise of the Tea Party. A "huge train wreck is coming," he said. "It's hard to imagine things being worse in Washington, but they will be." However, this will lay the ground for "something very exciting," McKinnon predicted: "A third party in 2012."