Tales of the Sausage Factory: The Future of Open Source Politics

I very much liked Micah Sifry’s article in the Nation magazine called The Rise of Open Source Politcs. The article nicely captures the growing frustration of many of us with our clueless elders.

I confess, at this point I place far more hope in Howard Dean’s Democracy for America and other organizations arising from the grass roots than I do in the demorcatic leadership to get it right.

Perhaps I am just angry. But I was at one of these little Washington events last night (retirement party for a long-time lobbyist with whom I have clashed and worked with over the years) when I drifted into a knot of insider DNC folks. I swear, they think that our problem can be solved just by running a candidate from a southern state or some other cosmetic change. Or they want to throw up their hands and lament that the “red states” are full of people who don’t share our values.

Feh. We won’t solve our problems by getting a makeover or by writing off 51% of the country that voted. We need to abandon the strategy cultivated by Bill Clinton that attempted to make the Democratic party seem as inoffensive as possible so as to appeal to a supposedly apathetic electorate looking for warmed over comfort food in politicians.

As anyone who has been out on the campaign trail knows, apathy is not the problem. The problem is that politicans treat voters the same way schools treat a PTA. While saying “we want you to be involved” and “parents must be partners,” what they really mean is “go out and raise money, participate in the neat catagories of things we have outlined for you, and let us professionals run things for your own good.” This message is reenforced by megacorps and media that repat to us over and over again that we can never make a difference beyond our back yard, so keep shopping and satisfy your civic urge by volunteering in soup kicthens on Thanksgiving.

This model sucks. The American people are not stupid, lazy or apathetic or any of the other neat little stereotypes we keep hearing. But many people are overworked, under informed, and feeling a vast sense of helplessness and anger.

I am not moving to Canada. I am not writing off my fellow Americans in the “red states” — even the ones who genuinely disagree with me what our values should be. I believe in a day when we as a country will once again have an empowered citizenry that refuses to let a professional class of politicians and lobbyists (like me, even) set the agenda. It’s why I fight so hard to set the information infrastructure free. Because while information does not “want” to be free, it desperately needs to flow freely — for infromation and informed debate are truly the lifeblood of democracy.

Sorry. I’ll try to be witty again after I calm down. But go read the Sifry article. And don’t give up or run off to Canada.

And don’t wait until 2006 to start thinking about what to do next. We start planning now.

Stay tuned . . .

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One Comment

  1. Micah Sifry says:

    Glad you liked my article.

    Check out http://www.rasiej.com, where I’m trying to push these ideas forward a bit further…at least until this Sept. 13.

    Micah

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