Still Waiting For The First Real Particpatory Presidential Administration

from the this-ain't-it dept

Like many folks, I was certainly intrigued by the way President Obama ran his campaign in 2008, using various online tools to actually empower his supporters to be proactive and play a real role in the campaign. Many suggested that this was a facade, and that it would be politics as usual once he took office. While it's still early, there does appear to be some evidence that this is, in fact, the case. This isn't surprising, but that doesn't mean it's not disappointing. Last year, we saw this with the various stimulus proposals, where the plans were worked on in backrooms with the usual political insiders and then presented to the public afterwards. There was no real participation from the public. And since then, we've see the same pattern repeated over and over again. On healthcare, certainly, and (of course) on the secret negotiations on ACTA. This is not participatory democracy.

Micah Sifry has a great article at TechPresident exploring this "disconnect," and suggesting that while it was true that the campaign really did enable thousands upon thousands of volunteers to step up and contribute, it may have been more of an accident of the techies who were involved, rather than an explicit plan by the Obama team. And, as a result, after the election, the team really didn't know what to do with the mass of supporters it had built up, and they did (of course) the same old political thing: believing that it was a broadcast list, rather than a group of committed folks who wanted to actually participate. It's hard to argue with this. The campaign still sends out emails, but they're never about asking for input or participating in a larger discussion. They're almost always about supporting the President.

I know that there are still many folks involved with the administration who are trying to build up the tools that can enable the public to be more involved, but it really looks like the administration totally dropped the ball on using the giant community it had already built up.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    Not going to happen

    Participatory government is a fantasy, seemingly only working when it comes to having a hotline (or app) to report pot holes and burnt out light bulbs. The Presidency isn't something that works well with 230 million back seat drivers.

    Obama has found out, like pretty much everyone who went before him, that they just don't have the time or the desire to put everything they do up to a long and pointless debate. They also don't want to turn every move into a shouting match, there the 1%ers at each end dominate the discussion and leave everyone else out.

    It's a nice idea, but completely non-functional.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Not going to happen

    Obama has found out, like pretty much everyone who went before him, that they just don't have the time or the desire to put everything they do up to a long and pointless debate. They also don't want to turn every move into a shouting match, there the 1%ers at each end dominate the discussion and leave everyone else out

    Yes, if participatory government were about letting everyone debate, you'd have a point.

    But it's not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Esahc (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:15pm

    Re: Not going to happen

    You really don't have much good to say about anything do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    drkkgt (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Not going to happen

    Not to mention this isn't about putting it up to EVERYONE's debate. Taking ACTA as an example, leaving out the groups that have customer interests at heart while including only the industry seems pretty closed. How about a little more balance and he can still make the decisions but be open about it and the process.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:26pm

    The political system

    Whilst he was running for office Obama was master of his own domain. Once in office he has to get things through congress and deal with the established government agencies.

    Therefore it is predictable that he would have trouble following through. However he seems to have made no effort at all in some areas - most of the ones that concern us here as it happens.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Colonel Panik, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    Still Waiting.....

    Fool me once and you will never get a second chance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Mike, in the end, it is about allowing everyone a voice. But in giving everyone a voice, you don't usually hear all the voices, you hear the 1%ers, and not much else.

    For those who complain about ACTA, example, consider the groups that want to represent the consumer. Do they truly represent all the consumers, or only a narrow group who wants something specific opposed to what the ACTA agreement will likely feature?

    Do we invite the public in to discuss peace treaties? Nuclear arms agreements?

    Where do you draw the participation line?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Danny (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:38pm

    Big fan of Obama, not of his web presence

    I signed up early to be part of Obama's web presence. Am fairly happy with his performance as President (and anticipate voting for him again), but have been very disappointed with his online presence. Mike's post captures what I have been feeling, but didn't know how to say.

    I still get emails from Obama and staff, but for the past year they've gone directly into the bit bucket. The broadcast political pablum holds no value to me. Had they gotten me involved, it would have been a very different year.

    Someday I will enjoy reading the article about how/why they dropped the ball on this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Not going to happen

    Speaking of 1%ers at each end, is anything not completely black-and-white in your eyes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Actually that was a really stupid question to ask a guy whose avatar is Mike upside-down with inverted colours...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Mike, in the end, it is about allowing everyone a voice. But in giving everyone a voice, you don't usually hear all the voices, you hear the 1%ers, and not much else.

    Only if you have bad filters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    ... consider the groups that want to represent the consumer. Do they truly represent all the consumers, or only a narrow group who wants something specific opposed to what the ACTA agreement will likely feature?

    I'm sure there is a range of opinions on this. But how can it possibly compare to the carte-blanche access granted to industry reps?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Actually, they get no "carte blanche" as each person has to be checked etc. It isn't like they just let anyone in the door. Just as importantly, the industry people actually have a financial stake in the situation. Consumers are at the other end of the deal, either paying for or not paying for products, which is their method of approving or disapproving of the system.

    Would you let all consumers in? How about 1 person from each consumer group in the country? Would you allow new groups, or only established groups? Would you allow individual consumers who don't feel they are represented also be part of the process?

    Too much freedom and too much openness is about as bad as too much communism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Mike D, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Re: Not going to happen

    I believe Obama's intent was to be forthright with what goes on in Congress... not so much to turn the government into an online voting poll. At least, that is the way I interpreted it. There is a big difference between the two. It was about the only thing I found common ground with him on. The idea of seeing what was actually in the bills and having some accountability with Congress and the Presidency was intriguing. Alas, he has failed to implement anything resembling transparency and, unfortunately, for him, this is a promise that will continually haunt and hurt him the longer it goes on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    No it isn't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    CrushU, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Huh, reading the article, where did it mention a desire to see an online voting poll?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Not going to happen

    Now I'm just the resident anti-establishment nut, but isn't your entire point more an indication of a failed government due to its size as opposed to "too much freedom"? All of this goes away if you reduce the size and scope of the federal government and return power to the local levels....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Just as importantly, the industry people actually have a financial stake in the situation.

    If you look at the things that that argument has been used to justify in the past you will be ashamed of having made it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    TDR, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Re: Not going to happen

    As well as reducing the size and scope of all corporations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    You're making that distinction as if you believe they're separate, when in fact they are not....

    Interestingly, I believe that you can reduce the size of corporations quickly by reducing the size of government influence they wield, and one way to do THAT would be to reduce the size and scope of that pesky federal government...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    "Too much freedom and too much openness is about as bad as too much communism."

    While there are constraints on democracies of modern (or colonial) sizes, the founding fathers would choke on that sentiment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Commenter number 5, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    "the industry people actually have a financial stake in the situation."

    - and joe public does not ...

    "Consumers are at the other end of the deal, either paying for or not paying for products, which is their method of approving or disapproving of the system."

    - Wow, you have a very simplistic view of the economy

    "Too much freedom and too much openness is about as bad as too much communism."

    - so let them eat cake

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 5:58pm

    Re: The political system

    citation?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 6:03pm

    Re: Still Waiting.....

    fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, you can't get fooled again

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:30pm

    Re: Re: Not going to happen

    I don't get you on this one.

    the 1%ers is a concept that says that 98% of the people are in the grey. It's only the extremely noisy 1% at either end of the issue that make the majority of the noise. When you open up the floor to discussion (even on this website) you are more likely to get 1%ers rather than average people, because average people don't have an extreme enough opinion to argue for it with any true passion.

    1%ers love strawberry Quik, or hate strawberry Quik. Everyone else is somewhere in between. Those who love or hate it will tell you so with a passion. Everyone else who sort of likes it or can live without it won't have the passion to express their quik-feelings.

    As for the icon, well, I figured the name needed an appropriate logo, it makes it harder for that one schoolkid to keep trying to put words in my mouth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Nick Dynice (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:31pm

    Lobbyist dollars have robbed us or our participation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    Er, you might want to check your math, dude.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2010 @ 10:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    How does an antagonistic icon and name help you? You should also be advocating for artists to not connect with their fans and to not give them a reason to buy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 10:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    When you open up the floor to discussion (even on this website) you are more likely to get 1%ers rather than average people, because average people don't have an extreme enough opinion to argue for it with any true passion.

    Again, you seem to fail to comprehend what is being discussed here. No one is saying to open up the floor for "discussion" on every issue. This is not about opening up comments on every gov't issue. It's about participatory democracy which is something entirely different.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    leetwanker (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 2:37am

    Could've had soldiers.

    In my view, Americans have been more disconnected from their government than earlier generations have been. Obama seems to have changed that to some degree. Whether it was him or people that knew they needed to stand up to make sure we didn't get George W. Bush version 2.0 in McCain. I know this because Obama was the first vote I ever cast, and I know that's sad, but I never used to feel like I could make a difference or that it was just picking the lesser of two evils.

    Obama seems to want to make this country better, and he's fighting a tough battle with the media making controversies out of every little thing the White House does, even perfectly innocent things. That can't make the job easy. A participatory system could be a tremendous asset if used properly. Health care for example is something Americans want to a large degree but Congress being in the pocket of big business, they wont pass a good bill without being made to.

    If Obama were to recruit us as soldiers and help us fight for what we want, and he wants to get us, together we could effect some real change. And Americans want to be soldiers, it's just that we don't feel empowered. I know that if he were to lay it out for us plain and simple and propose a plan, we could band together and get some shyt done! Don't you agree? We have to figure a way to be more powerful than the corporations with their lobbyists. The country belongs to the people, not the companies!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Raybone (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 4:46am

    Re: Could've had soldiers.

    while i agree w some of your sentiments..
    "A participatory system could be a tremendous asset if used properly"
    and
    "Health care for example is something Americans want to a large degree but Congress being in the pocket of big business, they wont pass a good bill without being made to."

    others statements you make might need a closer look..

    "Obama seems to have changed that to some degree"
    "Obama seems to want to make this country better"

    Your insight to the personal motivations of a politician are amazing and could get you well paid if you actually had such a power...

    Seriously though, Obama is "the good cop"...Bush/Cheney was "the bad cop"...both are still "cops" out to trip you up and get you into a jail cell..both answer to the same criminal/organized crime elements that have hijacked our country for over 100 years and who doesn't have the peoples best interests anywhere near to their motivations.

    The dichotomy of the two parties is theater and a sham. Read "The Creature from Jeckyll Island" to start you off..and you can freely read General Smedly Butler's war is a racket for free here http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm.

    Be careful when you use verbiage like "And Americans want to be soldiers" as it is very similar to that of oppressive regimes throughout history.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 6:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    SERIOUSLY to much freedom???? Do you just make this up...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Jake, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 6:27am

    By the time they'd filtered out the input of anyone who doesn't know what they're talking about, the Obama administration would have spent so much money and man-hours that they might as well have hired a firm of management consultants. I can't blame them for giving it up as a lost cause.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    To say that industry insiders have a financial stake and consumers don't is absolutely the most ignorant thing you've said to date. This treaty will have far reaching effects on what consumers are allowed to do with things they spend their money on. If I am restricted from using something I own in a way I want, and am unable to sell it, with or without a resale tax, as a result, then I would say I certainly have a financial stake. More to the point, the government is supposed to represent the citizens of this country. While the individual industry reps may be citizens, they are acting on behalf of an entity that is not. Therefore they should be the ones who stand by while the treaty is hammered out with the best interest of the citizens of this nation in mind, not the corporate entities who are getting their way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Not going to happen

    "I believe Obama's intent was to be forthright with what goes on in Congress..."

    Then why hasn't he? The examples in the article are specific examples of where this has not happen. Nowhere in the article does it demand online polls. Nice strawman, but a bit too lacking in substance to create the distraction from the real argument that you wanted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Could've had soldiers.

    An interesting glossing over of the last 100+ years of american history.

    The fundamental problem with both your assumptions about the motivations of these folks and the poster you were responding to is that they are absolute and too simplistic. Motivations vary within the population...some are beneficent, some malevolent, most somewhere in between. The complexities of individual motivations require institutions that are flexible, growing, shrinking, adapting as necessary.

    I, in my undoubtedly flawed assessment, would argue at this very point the growth of society's institutions is exactly what is necessary to reign in a seemingly lost, divided, frustrated, scared group of individuals who are struggling to come to grips with macro-level changes in the economic, political, social, and spiritual spheres.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Raybone (profile), Jan 7th, 2010 @ 1:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Could've had soldiers.

    "An interesting glossing over of the last 100+ years of american history."

    Nothing glossy about it at all, just a few pointers to the proverbial water...i cant make you drink.

    "The complexities of individual motivations require institutions that are flexible, growing, shrinking, adapting as necessary."

    It is you who is glossing over my point, which was never a contention that institutions, in and of themselves, are intrinsically evil. Nice strawman. Try reading again very carefully. I know my history well and American political history very well. It is so replete with examples that support my previous statements that there is really no need to point you to the examples. Google for yourself...read a few well researched books, etc..

    "is exactly what is necessary to reign in a seemingly lost, divided, frustrated, scared group of individuals who are struggling to come to grips with macro-level changes in the economic, political, social, and spiritual spheres."

    Dude..gimme a break..the human race has been fighting culture shocks all throughout history..

    Some biggies describing your conditions include..
    the fall of Rome
    Crusades
    Industrial revolution
    and for the 20th century especially..World War 1
    and it's continuation in World War 2
    etc,etc..

    again, however this comment ignored the point i made entirely. Indeed, I would counter your strawman point by asking if you feel it necessary for institutions to become oppressive for the problems you mentioned to be handled properly, since you did mention the current corruption of our institutions, which you describe so eloquently as "growth", as "exactly what is necessary."

    let us not forget that this American experiment in freedom is a blip in terms of overall human history. Civil Rights even more so. For most of recorded History, most of the Human race has lived in oppression. So our current concept of liberty is a fragile and precious thing indeed to be vigilantly cared for and nurtured. We, for the most part, are failing in this sacred task due to ignorance, spectacle, and indoctrination. A very few people have hijacked my country, and Im pissed about it, as should everyone be. I dont want my children growing up in a world-wide version of China thank you.

    Raybone

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This