I’ve received an unprecedented number of political phone calls in the last 10 days, and there is an unmistakable trend in the calls. All the calls on behalf of Republican candidates have been placed by machine. For these calls, someone set up a telephone server to place the calls with a recorded message, but there is no actual person there seeing that the calls are made. All the calls for all other parties and candidates were made by volunteers. They were actual people, concerned citizens, who were calling me.
This election, then, is shaping up as the battle of humans against robots. If the robocalls turn out to be more persuasive than the human callers, we can be assured of a political future that is largely controlled by robots. But if candidates who have human supporters win, it may say that humans still control the political process.
The Republican Party is taking a significant risk in turning itself into the Robotican Party. It could alienate voters who decide they don’t like having machines tell them what to do. And if enough people come to the conclusion that it is all part of some big conspiracy of robots and corporate lobbyists to take over the world, it could even be the end of the Robotican Party as a significant political force. Will the Roboticans find themselves frozen out of the debates and competing with the Green Party for air time and attention?
Personally, I think they will give up the robocalls before it gets to that point. Surely the results of this election will get them to finally look for the kind of politics that draws favor from humans rather than robots. Then again, the lessons of the 2004 and 2006 elections did not seem to sink in. So maybe the results of this election will not mean anything to them either.
This is, after all, the party of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t expect that he will be running for office again, but perhaps the party could put together a new recorded message that sounds like him saying, “I’ll call baaack.”