1840s democracy

1840s democracy

150 years ago, we had pretty much settled on all of the protocols and conventions of the American democractic system. We had figured out the steps and rules of electing a president.

Before radio, before TV.
Before planes or cars.
Before computers or voting machines.
Before YouTube.

Since mass democracy is essentially an exercise in communication and marketing, the fact that this essential process is frozen in time is a problem.

Here’s a few why not questions:

  • Why not have six-hour long debates, and do them once a week on Cspan, with the highlights diced and sliced and put on any number of online or offline channels?
  • Why not use a chess clock style timing device so that each candidate can be free to answer a question for as long as she likes, but each candidate enters the debate with exactly the same amount of time to allocate?
  • Why not have the early state primary voters have the ability to vote for their four favorite candidates? It’ll reward consensus candidates that have a better chance of winning the election.
  • Or, with a small upgrade to voting machines, why not let voters rank all the candidates? It’s been shown to lead to better results.
  • Why not let us vote at ATM machines?
  • Why not run the final elections over the course of a week, announcing the balloting results at the end of each day? It would certainly increase turnout.
  • Why rely on geography as the primary mechanism for districts and electoral college votes? Our issues aren’t farm-based any more. Why not let me pick which ‘state’ I live in?

If I ran a party and wanted to increase my chances of getting elected, I’d figure out how to turn the primary process into something that was simultaneously more interesting and more likely to lead to large numbers of my party turning out to vote in the general election. Instead, it’s almost guaranteed to do the opposite.

The relevant lesson for you, even if you’re not an active citizen or if you live elsewhere? Is your organization just as stuck? Are there marketing dynamics that you’re not discussing, merely because there isn’t even a way to talk about them? [Seth’s Blog]

Leave a comment