I just received and email from Barack Obama. It is my fourth from the President Elect’s transition team since he won the election. He invited me to track his progress at www.change.gov. I think government needs a lot of change, a lot of renewal, and I like that I am being asked to be a part of it. Our next president is keeping me up to date and has even promised to talk to me on Youtube every week.
We are reinventing participatory democracy. I was one of 1.5 million people that voluntarily financed Barak’s campaign. When 1,500,000 people write checks, that is public financing – that is participatory democracy. I followed the campaign on the Internet at my.barackobama.com and www.johnmccain.com, and on youtube and cnn.com and twitter and countless other sites that have seamlessly become part of my daily routine.
Critics may say that this “social networking” is just pandering to young; it is treating Internet users like a special interest. This is just flat wrong. 74% or the US population is on the Internet. My mother is on the Internet. (I wont mention her age but a demographer would not call her young.) More people use the Internet than have ever voted in a US election. Access is free to the public at every taxpayer funded local library. Orders of magnitude more people get information from the Internet every day than have ever ordered a publication from the government printing office. This is the new participatory democracy.
But an interested, active, informed public is only half the equation. Our representatives need to do their part. We need leadership that will similarly change, redefine and renew representative government. We have seen in the last 8 years the result of isolated and out-of-touch leadership: one that loses the popular vote and boasts of a mandate; one that blatantly practices cronyism and divides and disenfranchises the populous by claiming that dissent is unpatriotic and un-American.
Leadership in the Internet age communicates on the Web and through email. It restricts the role and influence on corporate lobbyists while soliciting continual input from the people. I want a representative government: I don’t want to vote on legislation directly. Abdication of legislative authority, like that seen in the ballot initiative process in states like California, is a travesty of democracy. I want strong political leaders that will listen to the voices of the people and represent our interests. So I will post my comments, write my blog and respond when Barack or any of his team send me an email. We the lobby: for the people, of the people, by the people.