…what do they have in common? Web-based New Media, that’s what. It’s time that we asked ourselves: what will be the long-term consequences of our emerging electronic democracy?
Two videos showing a San Francisco Bay Area police officer fatally shooting an unarmed, cooperating 22-year-old man have surfaced, due to the efforts of a vigilant teen and an anonymous videographer.
Both individuals used their cellphones to record the horrific event, and as you can see from the list of related videos in the embedded video above, the story is quickly breaking out across YouTube. Call it the revenge of the Fifth Estate.
Defenders of civil liberties should rejoice that this horrible — and fatal — violation on the part of the police officer has been brought to light so quickly, raw, and true. We have technology, coupled with the videographers’ patriotic use of it, to thank.
However, by the same token, can “patriotic New Media” take our nation down an unpatriotic path? We should all be on the alert about a secret new development occurring within the office of the president e-elect.
As Barack Obama builds his administration and prepares to take power next week, his political team is quietly planning a nationwide hiring binge that would marshal an army of full-time organizers to press the new president’s agenda and lay the foundation for his re-election.
The organization, known internally as “Barack Obama 2.0,” is being designed to sustain a grass-roots network of millions that was mobilized last year to elect Obama and is now widely considered the country’s most potent political machine.
Strategists for both parties say the scope of this permanent campaign structure is unprecedented for a sitting president. People familiar with the plan say Obama’s team would use the network in part to pressure lawmakers — particularly wavering members of the new president’s own party — to help him pass legislation on the economy, health care and energy.
[...] While the plan is still emerging, one source with knowledge of the internal discussion said the organization could have a budget of $75 million per year in privately raised funds, while another said it would deploy hundreds of paid staff members — at least one in every congressional district in certain politically important states and even more in the larger battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.
“The only way to keep this thing going is to have boots on the ground,” said a strategist familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because campaign officials have not granted permission to talk about it.
In what would be another unprecedented step, Obama’s political staff is deciding whether to create a service organization that would enlist its grass-roots campaign supporters. As described by one source familiar with the discussions, this non-profit arm would be used to help victims of natural disasters, but would do so under the Obama umbrella while continuing to build the overall network’s vast e-mail database.
On the one hand, “Obama 2.0″ is an innovative way to bring direct democracy into being, perhaps for the first time in American history since Andrew Jackson. Moreover, perhaps it will be illusory, perhaps not, but whatever the sincerity of the project, not since Ronald Reagan have Americans felt so hopeful and participatory in their own government; truly, then, this is a development worthy of applause.
On the other hand, “Obama 2.0″ is a potentially dangerous side-stepping of the system of checks and balances built into the United States Constitution. From the perspective of progressivism, there is much to cheer in the policy aims of this as-yet nascent political movement. But in the long-view of history, who’s to say that Obama’s innovative methods won’t eventually be used for decidely un-American purposes by his successors?
Both the internet and direct democracy are, ultimately, just tools; we would be wise to remember that a hammer is just as useful for bashing heads as for knocking nails into wood, depending upon its wielder. How much more dangerous could electronic democracy be?