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Saving Democracy With Web 2.0 190

Posted by Hemos
from the hear-hear-hear dept.
Wired is running a piece about how "Web 2.0" (still hate that buzz word) can save democracy this upcoming election date. Web 2.0 hyperbole aside, the piece itself covers the extent of the different mapping tools, get out the vote, finding who funds a candidate and other election candies. Good round-up story.
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Saving Democracy With Web 2.0

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  • by Control Group (105494) * on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:05PM (#16737001) Homepage
    Really, this is no different than initial utopian claims about how the internet will change everything, bring people together, cause world peace, eliminate hunger, and usher in a new era of universal well being.

    More tools are great, and making information easily accessible is a Good Thing. Calling politicians on their sources of funding is always positive, and holding politicians accountable for the things they say and the promises they make is fantastic.

    But no matter how available you make the information, it only matters if people care enough to find out. That's the advantage the traditional media have: given US culture, it's a push medium. It brings information to people, rather than wating for people retrieve the information. The implication of an article like this is that the threat to democracy is unavailability of information, which isn't true - or at least, is far from the whole story.

    The real threat to democracy is people who don't really care about what's going on in government. People who have voted straight ticket in every election since they were 18 (and are proud of the fact!) are the problem. People who consider themselves members of a Team Republican or Team Democrat are the problem. People who don't know who's on the ballot until they show up to vote are the problem. It's a combination of apathy, cynicism, and misguided loyalty that is the problem.

    This "web 2.0" phenomenon that the article discusses is, in a sense, the same as the "get out the vote" initiatives that come out every election cycle. When you come right down to it, if someone's only going to vote because MTV told them to, it's probably someone that shouldn't be voting*. If someone doesn't care enough about the process to know who stands for what and to take the time to go vote without being harangued by some celebrity, then that person should have just stayed home; we might as well roll dice to determine who gets elected.

    All the tools that are now available for information disclosure are great tools, and they make the job of a responsible voter easier. But they won't make someone who doesn't care in the first place suddenly care unless the information is forced in front of him - which is exactly the information model that the web doesn't match up to. Helping informed voters become better informed is a great thing, but it's not going to save democracy.

    *No, this doesn't mean I would ever advocate any kind of system to "validate" voters. Every citizen gets to vote if he wants to, and anything that begins to change that is abhorrent to the very idea of democracy. Nor would I restrict the right of any person or group to encourage people to vote. But that doesn't change the fact that the people who only vote because the TV told them to are very likely to cast unconsidered votes, which is not an ideal situation. Then, of course, there's the problem that any group pushing people to go vote is, almost certainly, pushing people to go vote the way that group wants them to - and the people being convinced don't even know that they're being pushed to a specific political position, rather than just being encouraged to exercise their franchise.
  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:14PM (#16737135)
    The real good news is that the web gets around all those pesky laws stopping you from telling lies about the political subjects or canidates you dont like.

    In fact, there's nothing stopping me from saying things like Mesure A (a public transit initiative where I am) will kill babies, and all who support it will feast on the baby meat!
  • by TonyXL (33244) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:30PM (#16737373) Journal
    Democracy is the most vile form of government... democracies have ever
    been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found
    incompatible with personal security or the rights of property:
    and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent
    in their deaths.
    -James Madison

    That is why our country was founded as a Constitutional Republic where FREEDOM, not democracy, was the ideal. Unfortunately, we are drifting away from freedom towards democracy, which has given us a bigger, more instrusive, and more corrupt federal government.
  • by mulhollandj (807571) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:33PM (#16737413)
    Democracy is just tyranny of the majority. A 51% vote by the people still doesn't give them moral authority to take my land. Government only has power which people give it and people can only give power which they themselves hold. This includes defense of life, liberty, property, and little else.
  • by Control Group (105494) * on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:38PM (#16737503) Homepage
    I'm all for it, except for the name-writing requirement. I've written too much code to trust arbitrary input compared to menu choices. This would result in too many valid, considered ballots being discarded for reasons irrelevant to the election (spelling errors, for example).

    Now, providing a menu of all the offices to be filled on one side, and a menu of all the candidates on the other side (with no reference to the office for which each is running, of course)...then we'd be on to something.
  • by LindseyJ (983603) on Monday November 06, 2006 @02:10PM (#16737963)
    And who gets to decide what level of "candidate education" is acceptable? The government (ie. the currently empowered political party)? For that matter, what criteria are we testing? It's not such a big jump from testing 'knowledge' to what basically amounts to a litmus exam: "I see you filled in agreement with the War on Terror/NSA Wiretaps/Social Secuirty/[Immigration stance]... I'm afraid we can't let you vote today. Please re-educate yourself and report back next year." If you really believe that Diebold equates to the death of Democracy in this country, then this isn't such a big leap.

    I find it funny, and more than a little sad, that the new voting machines have taken so much flak, but a suggestion like this gets aired openly. The saddest part is that I know a lot of people who would seriously consider asking people if they agree with GWB and the War (etc) before they are permitted to vote. (And to be fair, I know at least as many people who would say the same thing if you agreed with pulling out of Iraq, stopping NSA wiretaps, etc...) Funny how the more you point fingers at someone, the more you start to become what you claim they are.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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