Archive - May 15, 2007

Keeping Personal Democracy Personal

This Friday, I will attend Personal Democracy Forum. This is its fourth year, and I’ve made it every year so far. In 2004, I had been doing a lot of volunteer work with Gov. Dean’s Presidential campaign. When Gov. Dean ended his campaign, my wife decided to run for State Representative and I was her campaign manager. Democracy was all very personal to me.

By 2006, I had gone from a volunteer through being the paid BlogMaster for John DeStefano’s gubernatorial campaign and then technology coordinator for Ned Lamont’s U.S. Senate bid. It seemed like all of my friends from the Dean campaign had gone through similar, or even more profound changes as they all worked in professional roles with campaigns or with vendors servicing campaigns. Somehow, it all started to seem a bit less personal.

People that lived in Connecticut became records in one database or another. They became donors, volunteers, and voters. They were categorized, high dollar, or low dollar, super volunteers, or volunteers that love to offer advice, but not work. They became likely voters, ones and fives.

After last year’s conference, I spent a bit of time pondering how to keep Personal Democracy Forum personal. My thoughts never solidified enough to become a blog post. Thoughts revolved around the contrast between broadcast politics and networked politics. After all, with broadcast politics, the viewer is nothing but a viewer to be categorized, but with networked politics, everyone is an important part of the network, right?

Well, as I listen to so many online campaign strategists, I wonder how many people are really recognizing the importance of every node on the network, other than its ability to generate cash or message.

Perhaps some of this comes from a hierarchical view of networks, sending out messages to various nodes, but not encouraging communication back, or lateral communication between nodes. Or, perhaps, it comes from looking at the nodes on the network as nodes.

We are talking about real living people. People who have feelings, hopes, desires, fears; people trying to figure out how to pay for health insurance, college, or even food and housing. We are talking about people worried about a sick relative, morning the death of a loved one or celebrating a new birth, a graduation or a wedding.