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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

 
Virtual Democracy

I’d like to officially congratulate Howard Dean for winning the nomination of the Democratic party for President of the United States. It was a hard fought campaign, one in which all of the issues were discussed and engaged in great depth with the internet party faithful. All the candidates had a chance to make their case on-line and the best man won. Now, with Al Gore’s dispensation, we can concentrate on beating George W. Bush.

First on the agenda is figuring out how we can expand our new formula of “winning without elections” to the race at large. If we want to take our country back and empower the grassroots again it is clear that our best strategy is to dispense with the unpredictability of democratic elections. As our recent primary taught us, this is the way we can most effectively avoid the unpleasantness of persuading the large numbers of people who aren’t sufficiently internet savvy to know what is good for them. And if there’s one thing Al Gore knows it’s that voting is a uniquely unreliable method of determining the winner.

The question is how to expand this exciting new paradigm to the general election. What mechanism should we use to decide who should be our next president?

Clearly, polling cannot be used. After all, if people had mistakenly read the numbers today, they could have misinterpreted them as saying that our winner has not even persuaded more than 20% of his own party to vote for him. Why, if we had used those polls, some Democrats might have even made the error of thinking that the race wasn’t over. That would be confusing to many citizens who might get the wrong idea and think that it might matter if they vote for someone other than the one who has been properly anointed. That would defeat our purpose entirely.

The best way to expand our new electionless democracy would be to simply use the tried and true methods of internet activism, political endorsements, the infallible media pronouncements of “inevitability” and raising large amounts of cash. These are the proper measures of a candidate’s fitness for office and surely represent the will of the people better than the archaic practice of actual voting.

We can call it “Virtual Democracy” and run our entire campaign as one super cool internet blogfest polling operation. As yesterdays Pew Center’s in-depth polling of the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries show:

The Internet is also becoming a tool of the primary campaigns in these states. Significant minorities of voters in Iowa (27%) and New Hampshire (22%) have sent or received e-mails about the candidates or campaigns, and more than one-in-five in both states have visited candidate web sites.


It’s phenomenal! 22% of the roughly 160,000 Democratic voters in New Hampshire have sent or received e-mails about the campaigns. And more than 32,000 of them have visited campaign web-sites!

At last we can lay to rest that awful charge that we internet junkies (and the media) are living in an echo chamber in which we mistakenly believe that our political beliefs accurately reflect the nation’s. Those numbers say it all. Clearly, we grassroots activists of the internet (along with party pooh bahs and the media) represent the majority of voters and are very well qualified to take the reins of democracy and decide the presidency all on our own.

Of course, the big problem is getting the Republicans to go along with the plan. I worry that they might not agree that this is the best way since they’ve got plans to spend upwards of 200 million dollars on get out the vote efforts. It could be a problem. But, if we continue to grow our internet presence, it might make a difference. After all, the Republicans’ greatest weakness is their deep desire to appeal to cool people like us. They won’t be able to resist joining our Virtual Election.

Let’s just hope they don’t stab us in the back and spend their entire war chest on TV commercials. Unfortunately, our anointed candidate has spent more than any candidate in history on TV in Iowa and hasn’t been able to break away from the pack decisively in those irrelevant polls. (He is battling with that charismatic heartthrob Dick Gephardt, so that partially explains it.) But, I do worry that his ultimate coolness might not come through as well on television as we might like.

Which is all the more reason to embrace Virtual Democracy. We will never have to worry about such shallow considerations again when we ultra-hip internet geeks take control of the electoral system. As John Kerry would say, “Fuck the voters!”




UPDATE: For the record, I love Al Gore and I think he got sandbagged by somebody in the Dean campaign who couldn't resist leaking the information and ended up makin Al look like an asshole for not calling Lieberman. Sometimes, the guy just breaks my heart.

I think he has a perfect right to endorse Dean whenever he wanted to. But, I object strenuously to certain assumptions he and the media are making that are backed up by no empirical evidence:

Howard Dean really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire, at the grassroots level all over this country, the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy and change and transformation of America that we need in this country.


The only place that Deans "passion and enthusiasm for democracy" has demonstrated itself is in New Hampshire, the state next door to his own. Everywhere else, the race is still very close and mostly within the margin of error. There is simply no evidence beyond fundraising that Dean is running a movement that can sweep the country. Indeed, 80% of Democrats outside New Hampshire --- an historically eccentric state to say the least --- are either unpersuaded or haven't yet begun to pay attention.

The media always get ahead of themselves with these horse race stories, but it's foolish to do so ourselves. I'll wait until we get a little bit closer than 6 weeks before the election to decide who's won and lost. I'll probably even wait for some actual voters to weigh in.




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