advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Sunday, March 11, 2007

On Why We Blog, Or, America's 244 Greatest Words

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal"

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

--the nicolay draft of the gettysburg address; courtesy library of congress

Government by the People, for the People, and of the People.

The kind of government where you grab it with your own two hands and run the darn thing.

For the first time in my life, and probably yours too, and maybe for the first time in history, you can speak to the world-and the world listens.

Just ask Ann Coulter.

Or George Allen.

Or even better, ask Darcy Burner.

A complete political unknown with no name recognition, Ms. Burner ran for Congress in ‘06 in Washington’s 8th, a traditionally Republican district previously represented for 12 years by Jennifer Dunn, who was succeeded after the ’04 cycle by Dave Reichert, the former King County Sheriff who gained his name recognition from directing the hunt for the Green River Killer.

In a 51-48% outcome that must have left Republican hearts feeling as stressed as Dick Cheney’s, Burner lost.

And now she comes before us, as more and more elected officials are choosing to do, for the announcement of her intent to run again.

But that’s not the point.

The point is: look at the response.

Ordinary citizens are offering direct advice to a candidate who is reacting in real time.

As I say, this is hardly unique.

And that is my bigger point.

We live in a time where the real potential of the People to “be dedicated to the great task remaining before us” is at hand.

Those who seek to represent us, more and more, seek our wisdom, and our support, by coming to us directly. They are finding success in those efforts, and when the People give direction to the Candidate, or the Elected Representative, the dream of Government by the People is, for that moment, realized.

The greatness of the vision set forth by Lincoln, realized in a way he never could have imagined.

And with the potential to be repeated again and again, until this is the way politicians “talk” to their constituencies as a matter of natural practice.

There are those who benefit from a disengaged People; and in fighting them we, today, are engaged in efforts to end a great civil war.

That victory is not yet achieved, but one year ago the world was so much different. At last the People have found our voice, and our leaders seem...scared, suddenly.

And if our leaders are scared, what about those who lead them?

It’s as if the professional political control community-the Microsoft of politics, if you will (sorry, Darcy Burner, can we still be friends?), is suddenly facing a robust open-source challenge for which it was completely unprepared.

It’s not just “message” consultants looking over their shoulders-here’s an example of highly professional open-source graphic consulting.

Focus groups? Will blog communities become the new open-source focus group, or will pollsters start focus group blogs? A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse, if you ask me; and the only difference seems to be the degree of targeting needed and the desire to restrict the results.

Experts? If a candidate wanted to learn about Iraq, they might read Marshall Adame over at BlueNC, who has personally been doing the work of rebuilding that country; and I suspect he would be happy to offer advice.

For that matter, a candidate needing pretty good free advice need only post a page to Kos, or TPMCafe, or any of the entire community of communities that can offer direct communication from the electorate at large-and good advice will be found-quickly, too. There is a “wheat from chaff” element to the process, granted, but paying for advice has the same problem.

Fundraising?  Connecting to your favorite candidate is more direct than ever and eventually I suspect entire online communities will begin to donate as a group, creating “open-source PACs” that are controlled by the electorate more than the “money aggregators” of today.

The development of “open-source” campaigning may lower the barriers to entry for candidates. It also creates the chance for candidates to reach across the nation for assistance that might never have been available before.

There are candidates who are willingly adapting to this new experiment in direct Democracy, John Edwards, at this stage of the game, being the prominent example so far in the ’08 cycle.

Darcy Burner, on the other hand, represents a new development-the candidate who seeks the “open-source” solution from day one of her campaign. Who openly asks the People to be a part of governing again.

She is not the first, I am sure, to seek the People. Nor will she be the last.

And that’s why, every day, with every candidate who seeks us out, we get a little closer to the dream expressed at Gettysburg. The dream that we will truly be our own Government, a dream that seems to have gotten away from us recently, but all of a sudden, is starting to feel close enough to touch.

If Abraham Lincoln is watching this, I bet he’s proud.

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