In the spirit of 2012, I write about democracy. Because it is the grand assumption that America is built on, it is supposedly what will be taking place over the course of next year’s elections, and thus it is the foundation upon which I will take on ‘political journalism’ as I travel to New Hampshire for the GOP primary in a few weeks.
And, for the first time, it doesn’t have to be only an abstract concept the ancient Greeks took a good shot at and the founding fathers nodded toward.
of the people
In human history, the public has never been more informed – or at least had more potential to get informed. Going into the 2012 presidential (and gubernatorial, and state legislative) election, the general population of the United States will never have more access to information on the candidates and issues. Technology in media has revolutionized our access to knowledge of public affairs:
• NY Times election 2012 app | This is a traditional news source with a new spin: an app. So it’s at your fingertips, tailored to political news, etc.
• Twitter | There is really no better way of finding out up-to-date information on what’s happening in politics. I’ve shared my ‘politics’ list as somewhere to start following, but individuals can customize their own feeds to reflect candidates – or their PR people – journalists, columnists, pollsters, or anybody also interested in politics. I also do “mini-curation” of political reporting @TonerProgram.
• Websites | From traditional news orgs like WaPo, who knows Washington better than anyone, to politicians’ websites (I picked Newt because he’s recently popular) so you can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
by the people
Simultaneously in history, the high point of ability to collect public opinion is being reached:
• Gallup, when it comes to politics, is a given, though there are lots; They are the longest-standing pollsters out there and just keep collecting opinions to add the wealth of knowledge they have about public opinion and trends within it.
• I have to mention Patchwork Nation — it is one of my favorite websites. It’s data, pure and beautiful and granular.
for the people
Despite circumstances that would otherwise point to democracy’s success, America is gridlocked in the politics of a republic that hardly seems representative of the demos.
How do politicians get away with misrepresenting their constituencies and acting on behalf of anything but the people who elect them?
Politics are a national arena, but somehow individuals’ opinions and votes are grouped into what we all know are arbitrary parties and locales. Do you remember learning about the Electoral College in elementary school? In my experience, everyone was outraged, claiming it was outdated. I’d take it one step further and say that we don’t even think about national political issues as local communities anymore, so dividing votes in that manner doesn’t make any sense anymore.
And who is a staunch supporter of either of the only two political parties in this country? Many people think the two-party system either severely misrepresents individuals (and they identify themselves as independent), or they are moderate, able to list a few caveats to how their beliefs align with Democratic or Republican platforms.
So why do we let it stand? What needs to change?
As I mentioned, it’s worth re-envisioning what makes a community. Secession used to really appeal to me: Let’s just go anti-fed, break apart the Union and redistrict our communities into manageable sizes. As much as small government has a whole lot of appeal, it’s hardly practical because of undying nationalism, 200 years of important development and the positives that come from precedents in law and politics. Perhaps more importantly, if we are headed in any direction, it’s a global government and economy. It’s too late to deny or turn our backs on that trend – and it would probably be dangerous.
What really appeals to me then, is imagining a solution, something that actually works for the people:
It would require accessibility, self-identification and trust, obstacles that are hindered by our own concerns over security, privacy, conspiracy, and ownership.
Yet, if democracy is really the cornerstone of society (and I’m willing to consider that maybe it isn’t) the opportunity of instating a system of mobile voter expression is certainly an idea no more disillusioned than the current system of voting, flawed with hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads, absentee ballots and, well, politicians. Maybe technology will offer a new set of male-namesake glitches.
But maybe it won’t – or maybe the opportunities will far outstrip the costs.