Disgusted with the news, yet?
Heard enough about the sex-capades of politicians and celebrities?
Mad about bankers, credit card companies, bailouts and the stimulus yet?
Government debt got you down?
You are not alone.
According to a new Rasmussen poll, 75 percent of all Americans are angry about current government policies.
And a whole gang of Tea Party activists are driving both Democrats and Republicans a little crazy just discussing it.
I have an idea. Let’s leapfrog over all of the quicksand dragging us down and try some new ideas.
After all, you have no right to complain if you’re not willing to do something about it.
That is our “new normal.” Each of us must come up with an idea to fix our political system.
Everything else is a do-it-yourself economy. Why not do-it-yourself politics?
According to British philosopher, Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for a few good men to do nothing.”
A few good men and women, plus one good idea can alter history.
One new “old” idea: more democracy
As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Wisconsin Progressive Gov. Robert M. La Follette, and New York Gov. John Dewey each frequently opined: “the cure for whatever ails democracy is more democracy.”
Rather appropriate today.
In the last century, during the upheaval that forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign in disgrace and President Lyndon Johnson to concede his party’s nomination before the primary fights even began, I co-authored an article that espoused picking a name out of a hat – believing that we would be better represented by our local mail carrier than members of the out-of-touch establishment.
Naive and young, I believed that the political corruption surrounding Watergate and the riots surrounding the Vietnam War expanded by Nixon — with the acquiescence of Congress — to include Cambodia and Laos couldn’t get any worse.
And yet, here we are. Sex, lies, and videotape scandals among the leaders in politics, sports, Hollywood, the business and religious communities.
Thus, the popular Northern California bumper sticker. “I never thought I would miss Nixon.”
Anyone with the stomach to watch contemporary news, read the blogs or channel surf the cable networks can easily recognize the near collapse of a civilized — let alone intelligent — discourse about the country’s woes.
People must lead themselves
In real terms, the people must now lead themselves. The press and the politicians will follow.
The people led the dissent on Watergate and Vietnam and most recently, on the stimulus, bank bailouts and the public debt. The people led on women’s rights, civil rights, an end to child labor and campaigns against drunk driving and domestic abuse.
The press and politicians belatedly followed.
The recent Supreme Court decision permitting unlimited corporate contributions to campaigns and the obvious lobbying/moneyed interests controlling all levers of American political power make direct democracy the next evolutionary/revolutionary step.
Or the U.S. may face President John Adams’ unhappy admonition:
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Granting women, blacks and 18-year-olds the right to vote helped rejuvenate the American system in the 20th century. The 21st century needs something more.
In this country, approximately half of the eligible voters register. Of that 50 percent, only half again bother to show up; meaning 25 percent of those eligible. That is considered “a good turnout.”
In local and state elections, it is not unusual for a councilmember to be selected by less than 5 percent of the population. Hardly representative.
Hence the need for ideas to educate, train, and move every citizen along at warp speed, so they might better represent themselves.
Tools already exist
The tools for such an imaginative experiment already exist.
Netroots and the multiple new social media Web sites, constitute a viable collective exchange that could permit every interested voter to represent themselves. They are already frequent users of the system.
Look at the numbers:
- 90 trillion – The number of emails sent on the Internet in 2009.
- 247 billion – Average number of email messages per day.
- 1.4 billion – The number of email users worldwide.
- 100 million – New email users since the year before.
Facebook, alone, just crossed into 400 million users.
Or as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unintentionally telegraphed a fail-proof strategy for digital democracy’s future, “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in…”
The parachutes are already in flight. American science, technology, and the netroots have been operating around the roadblocks for some time. In fact, they designed the parachutes.
In politics, Howard Dean’s early presidential campaign, then Sen. Barack Obama’s, and recently Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) Web strategies all demonstrated the early potential of the Web as an organizing and fundraising tool.
Social networking is for more than dating and organizing rave parties.
During the recent Iranian demonstrations, Twitter was there.
In the aftermath of Haiti, the Red Cross and texting were there.
If cell phones are good enough to purchase goods with just a swipe at a bar code; good enough to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for Haiti with a short #90999; and robo computers can fly airplanes, perform surgery, rescue us from rubble, launch satellites to the moon, fly unmanned drones into precise targets, and produce Quant sheets for the financial world; they can surely allow us to vote without representation.
How hard can this be?
Think eBay, email, the Kindle, weathercams, robocalls, GPS, etc.
iPhones are now used as stethoscopes by physicians; as police alerts by neighborhood watch groups, and as snowpack measures to keep ski resorts honest.
Read the suggested legislative bills in PDF format on the Internet. Research, debate online, discuss with friends, converse over Skype, or with Facebook.
Watch YouTube. Download trustworthy learning materials. Teach yourself. Surf the web for more than just a distraction.
Steal this idea and design a killer app
In the spirit of the 1960s, you have my permission to steal this idea. Patent it. Design a “killer app” and make yourself richer than Bill Gates.
Start in California. Oregon won the race to the “mail only” ballot. California has three tech savvy candidates for governor in Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman, and Steve Poizner. Each is capable of grasping and influencing the future.
Perhaps, the next governor can patent this “digital democracy” product for the State of California; then sell it to other states, and countries (instant translation is easy on the Internet) and pay down California’s debt with more than just revenue from pot.
However, this idea needs a great marketing slogan and a catchy URL. Need some talent here.
Think about it.
Imagine it. Perhaps you will or Steve Jobs will.
California needs you. The U.S. needs you. The planet needs you.
Help out here.
Or stay home and wait for the Mother Ship to arrive.
Colleen M. O’Connor is a former college history professor, the director of the “Faces of San Diego 2000″ family photographic history project and co-editor of Eleanor Roosevelt: An American Journey. She is an SDNN political columnist and can be reached at CoConnor15x(a)Yahoo.com