Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Campaign of the Future

--Looking Back on 2008 in Shame--

First, with all the flack that's going around about the Democratic Primary slugfest, here's what I'd like to see. I'd like to see all the super-delegates get together and say, in one resounding voice, the following:

1) "We love this primary fight. We hope it goes all the way to the convention. We want every opinion voiced and every voter heard. We will not supress democracy for the sake of appearing to have a clear winner, or triumphant champion. Politics is a fierce business, and sometimes it is less-than-pretty, but to have such a strong field competing against each other is a sign of the strength of our party."

2) "BUT.... If you two can't play nice, talk about real issues, and show some respect for each other and your party, we're going to immediately grant all of our super-votes to the candidate who *doesn't* stoop to name calling. So help me God, I'll turn this convention around and take you all back home if you don't behave."

Not that this will ever happen. The Democrats, at heart, like appearances and dislike competition. Especially friendly competition. Every opponent is simply evil and closed-minded. Even other Democrats.

I hope that in some future campaign, we may hear ideas like the above expressed. But our nation is clearly not quite ready for it.

--Politics in the Information Age--

The Internet brought us a way to fulfill our traditionally out-of-the-way desires, both in our personal lives, and in our economy. This same transition is going to hit government sooner or later. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch write, in their cover story for Politics:

...politics is a lagging indicator of American
society, which has been moving with
broadband-like speed into an era of Do It
Yourself culture and not-so-rugged individualism.
Think of what Americans have come to expect
and insist upon in their social and economic lives:
increasingly individualized service, culture and
consumer products at every level (“You want
soy with that decaf mocha frappuccino?”);more
and more control over education, healthcare and
retirement; and a nearly full-throttled embrace
of lifestyle tolerance and pluralism that was
unimaginable in a pre-Netflix, pre-“Queer Eye
for the Straight Guy,” pre-iPod America.
Decentralization, niche markets and choice are
the coin of this new realm. The political future
belongs to those leaders—and parties—that
figure out how to transpose this insight into
the legislative world.


Catch the whole article here:
http://www.reason.com/news/show/125656.html

They go on to talk about the increased demand from niche markets in our everyday lives, and how the top-down imposition of common goods, services, and ideas is nearing the end of its reign. I can't help but agree with them. The changes the Internet has wrought in our economy and our personal lives is about to come crashing over Washington D.C.

When someone talks about the sweeping changes that the Internet is going to bring to politics, they are usually talking about recent or near-term trends like Online voting, scandal scoops from the Blogosphere, or tapping into internet-based campaign contributions. These symptoms are certainly novel, but they are just that... symptoms. The real sea change is occurring in the populace now. We expect to have a voice, not just in the "strongly agree/somewhat disagree" opinion polls, but in shaping and driving opinion and dialogue, and in oversight of a truly transparent government.

--The Mass-Media Politics of Yesterday--

We are becoming, again (thankfully), a nation of do-it-yourself individualists. Look how politics changed with the ascent of mass-media, particularly television, in the 1950's. When political discussion became a one-way-street via broadcast media, we became a one-way-nation. When that media became nationally broadcast, we became far more federalist. (One media, one nation). When advertisers learned to ride that media, we became "consumers"--literally, bottom-feeders who ate whatever ideas or products were shoveled in front of us. (In WWII, American's were called upon to sacrifice at home for the war effort. In 2001, we were called upon to go about our business of consuming as usual, for the war effort).

We relied upon the editorial content that Television, Radio, and Political Parties provided to us. We were awash in too much information, and we needed someone to filter out the relevant data lest we be overwhelmed. In recent years, however, we have adapted. We have learned technological tricks to helping each other filter out the noise.(Things like Google, del.icio.us, digg, and community reviews and rating-systems like EBay, Angie's List, and Slashdot). And while we are beginning to reassert ourselves and demand that the feedback loop gets closed, media, newscasters, pundits, and party leaders are still riding the last wavefront. They have polished their advertising-age editorializing to such a high sheen that they can no longer tell the difference between filtering the information, and trying to control it for their own ends (nominally, for "our own good".)

Major Political party leaders, backed by the willing accomplice of mass-media and slick advertising, have grown so accustomed to setting the agenda through their position in power over information and opinion, that they cannot see the ground opening up beneath their feet.

We now have the means to make all information available in a way where it can be searched, filtered, rated, propagated, refuted, and proven, not by some small top-down leadership, but by each other.

--The Glass Closet--

Anyone with any sense stays well away from politics, only further removing those who do practice this arcane art more segregated from normal American Society. This has been a long-running theme of politics: those qualified to hold office will never seek it.

This is certainly an over-simplification, and the truth is more subtle. One thing that is certain is this: Politics is a self-selecting field. Those who seek political power seek political power because they want some form of control over other people. This feeling is often benevolent, and many seeking office do so out of some sort of perceived need to help others, but all to often, "helping" one segment of society means "controlling" another. Many good people shy away from politics for this reason. And power centralizes there, from both major parties, because they are made up of these power-seeking people, regardless of how well-intentioned their motives are.

However, many worthy people stay away from politics because they are afraid of any skeletons making their way out of the proverbial closet. But now imagine this: in 20 years how impossible will this be? Who isn't going to have some embarrassing blog post on LiveJournal, or some compromising photo up on MySpace? Nobody will be able to have lived such a pristine flawless life just to make it into politics. And if they do, none of us will put up with having people so garishly out-of-touch with the human experience as our leaders.

Furthermore, the people who are blogging, digging, linking, and cross-posting today who do make it into office will find that our expectations of their openness (and our forgiveness of their youthful indiscretions) is without bound.

I could go into this theme further, but Jeff Jarvis already beat me to it in his article, The United States of Google.

http://www.buzzmachine.com/2008/03/22/the-united-states-of-google/

In it, he proposes, among other things, to "Turn the Freedom of Information Act on it's head", and make the government ask to keep things from us. He wants the entire government to be searchable. Jarvis goes on to quote Barrack Obama:

I’ll put government data online in universally accessible
formats. I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts,
earmarks, and lobbyist contacts. I’ll let you participate
in government forums, ask questions in real time, offer
suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are
made, and let you comment on legislation before it is
signed. And to ensure that every government agency
is meeting 21st century standards, I’ll appoint the
nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.

I won't quote you any more of the article. You should promptly go read it in its entirety.



We have a bright political future to look forward to. In it:

• Government is transparent
• Voters are treated like investors instead of consumers
• Citizens have a voice that refuses to go unheard
• Citizens are positive and constructive towards our government, because we have a stake in it every day, not just in election years, or as members of a broad demographic in a poll
• Ideas about good governance comes from the Citizens and bubbles upward, not from the politicians from the top-down
• Electoral success depends on motivating people, not donors, because people can't be swayed by an increasingly irrelevant broadcast media

I can't wait to see you all there.

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