Saturday, December 10, 2005

Election ’06 or Election ’96?

We need a new kind of political web site, independently maintained, that crosses party lines.

This web site would be apart from, and independent of, individual candidate pages...a place where candidates and voters would be urged to ask and answer questions directed at the candidates; where candidates would debate one another, their cross-aisle opponents, and the voters.

During the election cycle of 1996 The Arizona Daily Star’s StarNet launched a web site called “Election 96.” It was basically the work of seven volunteers working with the blessing of StarNet’s Robert Cauthorn.

The volunteers were Democrats, Republicans, A Libertarian and Independents. We were all starry-eyed about the capacity of the internet to transform politics. “Election ‘96” would be a place where local candidates would have their own sites, where letters and comments could be publicly posted to candidates and where the candidates’ answers would appear.

We were not just ahead of the curve…there was no curve. We either failed to convince candidates of the usefulness of this sort of public presence, or we convinced them and they were very uncomfortable with the notion of too much uncontrolled contact with constituents or their opponents

No one wanted to enter into a public debate with their opponents or the voters. And no one wanted these exchanges to be part of a public record. (The one exception was Barbara LaWall, who was then locked into a tough primary contest.) The few candidates who did come on board had merely a passive presence…stating a position, asking for donations, urging support. In other words they had the beginnings of what we have today: One way web sites.

You can send today's candidates an e-mail, or make a donation, but there is no way to post a public complaint, criticism, or compliment and read the candidate’s public answer. There is no place for a public debate between candidates.

I understand that no candidate wants to loft his or her own web site and then find s/he is giving time to the other guy. That’s why we need a new kind of political web site, on the model of “Election ‘96” and we have to tell all candidates that the voters want to hear from them, and hear them debate one another.

Look at the sites for Giffords, Graf, and Latas


sotto voce said...

I think you raise an interesting point, and it is to the detriment of our democracy that the candidates and the electorate don't engage more fully.

I have seen candidates publish on dKos and MyDD and seen a pretty healthy discourse unfold there. I think a candidate is going to be biased towards interacting on a heavily viewed site -- for obvious reasons and I wonder if starting up a new site would be effective or not. There is a certain amount of preaching to the choir going on in these venues however.

What about an online chat with the candidates? I've seen this done with doctors and then the transcript is posted. It wouldn't replace your idea, but perhaps augment it.

On a separate note, why only highlight three people in our (the AZ CD8) race? Seems counter to your notion of an open and engaged debate among everyone. Last I looked there were lots of people aspiring to the job. The politics1 website lists 12 people on each side of the aisle including Francine Shacter, previously mentioned on your website, and a bunch of others that I am not yet familiar with.

No disrespect meant to any professional politicians but I think it would be very useful and effective to send a citizen representative to Congress.

Thanks for listening!

Art Jacobson said...

The three sites mentioned were the only ones I knew and I only mentioned those as illustrations of one-way web sites. If you know any other political websites for the many aspirants please let me know

sotto voce said...

Strange, you mentioned Ms Shacter's web site in a post on your own blog on 17 November.

The politics1 website I mentioned in my previous post lists all the current contenders and has a link to the respective websites as well.

If you want to have a fair and honest debate I think everyone should have a hearing, not just the pre-ordained candidate(s).

As a nation, we have been electing the "electable" and look where it has gotten us. A corrupt, unaccountable government and a disenfranchised electorate.

Looking at the data, more people don't vote than vote. That's the real tragedy in America's democracy today.

If you are sincere about a lively debate amongst the candidates, you need to include them all.

Art Jacobson said...

Dear Sotto Voce,

I think you may still slightly misconstrue the point of my initial post. The three sites mentioned were mentioned simply as examples of what I consider one-way sites. They were not intended as examples of what I or anyone else consider the only viable candidates.

I welcome a lively debate amongst all the candidates ( I doubt whether all the candidates do, though.)

What we need now is a site where this can take place. Any ideas?

Jeff Latas for Congress, AZ-8 said...

I'm all for an electronic forum. I want my message heard because it's important. I don't want to run in a celebrity popularity contest, I'm doing this because we must change the course the nation is on.

I welcome all to my web site and I welcome questioning my positions. It is in this debate that I have formed many opinions and have tweaked initial ideas. I’m proud to say I have a mind open to persuasion and think that we could have a link to an open forum from our web site where the people could commit and discuss the candidates’ issues.

I’m for it and will work with anyone that wants to give this a try.

Art Jacobson said...

This will make a good start. I suggest that the Star forums would be a kind of "neutral corner" from which to launch extended debate and discussion. They are already set up for extended public exchanges.

Why not announce yourself in the "politics" forum and invite questions from both Republican and Democratic candidates?

I look forward to seeing you there.