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The anti-pundits

2004  was a watershed year for the blogger, the satirist, the talk-show host whose role as burr under the saddle of conventional wisdom was more than a sideline event.
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It was a watershed year for the anti-pundit: the blogger, the rock star, the satirist, the late night talk-show host whose role as burr under the saddle of conventional wisdom became more than a sideline diversion. The barbarians didn't just attack the gates in ’04; they threw them open, getting inside mainstream news — on the campaign trail, and at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

What was only hinted at in 2000 came into its own this year: an unprecedented, unrelenting and unsparing democratization of information and technology. 

It was high season for the late-night talk-show. Leno and Letterman weighed in, of course, but Comedy Central's Jon Stewart emerged as the wickedly potent antidote to mainstream punditry.

By airing suspicions and beliefs the Multiple Wise Men at the anchor desks wouldn’t (and couldn't) touch, and doing it from the bully pulpit of late-night television, Stewart broadened the dialogue and made the political season a free-for-all, helping give late-night a central role in the election dialogue.

Pop music found its way into every aspect of the campaign: A rally wasn't a rally without the music of some stalwart of radio blaring over the speakers as the candidate sprinted to the stage -- from Springsteen and Mellencamp on the blue-state left to Toby Keith and Brooks & Dunn on the red-state right.

Musicians actively jumped into the mix. Sean (P. Diddy) Combs started a voter registration group. Everyone from the Black-Eyed Peas to Coldplay's Chris Martin got political. Punkvoter, Music for America and others homed in on young voters. Even conservative rockers got into the act.

It was all geared to make voting look like the height of cool, like getting pierced or buying a Prius. And it worked: Young America showed up. On Nov. 2 almost 21 million under-30s — those historically complacent outsiders — cast ballots, a 4.6 million jump from 2000. Just maybe that's a sign of things to come.