I was talking with Jon Lebkowsky and Britt Blaser last night and here’s what I think the most promising feature of today’s Dean-led activism: With the tools being built today and that will certainly be improved every election cycle to come, anyone can run for any office.
The focus on electing a president is a distraction from the normal operation of a democracy. When you aren’t living in a tyranny, yes, changing the regime in Washington becomes more consuming, but when you’ve got a normally functioning democracy, the president doesn’t matter as much on a day-to-day basis as the actions of millions of local and state elected officials who make the decisions that affect us palpably.
David Weinberger wrote on the Corante Many2Many blog that “the [Dean campaign] has been creating an infrastructure that allows groups of supporters to meet and stay in touch…a social network.” David continues: “… it seems quite possible that we’ll see some topical mailing lists emerge, and perhaps Pilots for Dean (via DeanSpace) will stay together for a couple of decades because it’s a good place to ask for advice from like-minded flyboys and flygals. But I suspect (based on almost nothing) that it’s the friendships made through MeetUp and the access to local people in DeanLinks and GetLocal that will survive the longest with the richest connections.”
Agreed, completely, though these rich connections need to be applied locally rather than waiting for the next national campaign to come along. It would be ideal if we could deploy a Web-based system that anyone could use to start a campaign for any office, to find people which complementary interests so that, if I am interested in running for school board I can find the people interested in schools or in running for city council so that I can contact them and start trading my work for them for their work for me — so we can knit far-reaching social networks into active local political networks. If we are simply going to replicate the nationally-focused politics of the mass media, we’re missing the lesson of the seething community-forming going on in Netspace.