If markets are a conversation… and news… so should politics be

If markets are a conversation… and news… so should politics be

: After I blogged that the political conventions should be distributed across the country, Cameron Barrett, former chief blogger for Wesley Clark, emailed me to report that he had proposed just that to the DNC. Sadly, they didn’t take him up on the smart plan. Now Cam tells us about it.

He told the DNC that it “needs to start moving away from the ‘broadcast politics’ of the past 40 years and more towards something called ‘participatory politics’ ” and proposed building a network of thousands of Democrats’ blogs for the convention. He told the DNC in May:

By opening up the communication between those attending the Convention and the general public, it enhances the idea of inclusion, participatory democracy and openness — best represented by the Democratic Party.

All politics is ultimately local. Delegates are at the Convention representing their constituencies, their interest groups, their politicians and the American people of the Democratic Party. Providing a categorized online communication architecture that outlines this for the American public so they can participate in the conversations they care about the most with the delegates, their politicians and other concerned Americans is a crucial step. The Bush-Cheney campaign and the RNC is all about command and control, with their army of trained underlings. The Democratic Party (and, ultimately the Kerry campaign) should be about channeling the diversity of their supporters in ways that benefit the Party. The core concept here is bi-directional communication — communication that goes in both directions, from the top down but also from the bottom up.

Alas, they weren’t ready for the future.

Cam told the Democrats that a thousand Democrats’ blogs beat one Democratic Party blog. Amen.

He also wishes that the bloggers who had attended had involved the citizenry more, soliciting their questions and trolling the hall to get answers.

  • To be fair, and I’ve said this to Cam as well as some of the folks he was talking to, you’re talking about a remarkably substantial initiative, from a logistical standpoint, that had to happen on an incredibly short time frame.
    Putting aside organizational issues, funding, budget constraints, management, hiring, and physical logistics, just getting the *tech* for something like that kind of web community together in the few short months between Kerry’s clinching of the nomination and the convention’s staging seems, well, a recipe for disaster.
    Technorati’s getting a tiny fraction of the traffic and attention that the entire convention is getting, and they’ve got a number of good, smart, talented people, a decent amount of money, and have had over a year since launch. And they’re still getting frustrated users of their service. If you had to create something like this suggested community, which would be on a larger scale, with an order of magnitude more readers, and absolutely bulletproof requirements for technology and community management, you’d be asking for trouble.
    You’d end up, in my (educated by probably somewhat cautious) opinion, with a troubled technical system whose most minor bugs would overshadow the main point that everyone was at the convention for.
    Instead, they got a *ton* of good press and good will for having added 35 people to the roster of over 15,000 who were already attending the convention. Seems very efficient to me.
    And they raised the bar for what the RNC is going to be expected to deliver, since no matter *how* good the Republican execution is, (given their additional months for planning and the foreknowledge of who their candidate is) they’ll still be seen, to some degree, as just doing a “me too” embracing of bloggers.
    I wish Cam’s ambition had happened. I have a vested interest in making sure it’s possible to do in the future, and hopefully in the 2005 future, not the 2008 future. But given the constraints that were in place, they made the right choice for maximum impact and minimum cost.
    Put yourself in their shoes, and I think the picture becomes clearer. That’s not to say we shouldn’t aspire to the ultimate in transparency in the future. But taking a baby step, or even a giant leap, as I think the DNC has, is pretty good for a first try.

  • Politics is most certainly a conversation, but its current state is the essence of command and control. This is why Ed Cone keeps hammering away at “the riddle of how an Internet-based movement meshes with traditional campaign organizations to form an effective campaign.” This assumes a need to do so, however, and I’m not convinced that’s the case. One needs only to examine the methods (smart mobbing, SMS, cellphones) employed in South Korea to elect an entirely new government in just four years. Yes, that’s a parliamentary form of government, but it doesn’t change the dynamics of conversation that were used to overthrow a deeply institutionalized system.

  • Tom Paine

    > Cam told the Democrats that a thousand Democrats’ blogs beat one Democratic Party blog.

  • Based on the track records of heavy-blogging candidacies in this election, it’s hard to sustain the argument that all this two-way communication helps elect a candidate. The most successful candidacies used their blogs as fundraising and propaganda tools, and those who tried to listen to the grass-roots got stuck hard in a echo chamber.
    The fact remains that we aren’t all equally well-informed about the political system and the issues, and the structure of government (and of campaigns) has to reflect that fact.
    BTW, Barrett’s slam at the Reeps for “command and control” is pretty funny, given the timing. The Boston Convention was more controlled than any (by any party) in history, so who does he think he’s kidding? Seriously, there was more Free Speech in Saddam’s Iraq than at that convention, and why the hell didn’t they let Michael Moore speak?