Sunday, April 27, 2003

eParty - Lets Build a Web Based Political Lobby

at the recent O'Reilly conference i connected with peter kaminsky, ross mayfield, mark graham and joe kraus on this concept and volunteered to start getting the ideas down so we can all brainstorm at least virtually on it. i welcome input from anyone who shares an interest.

eParty Vision

my vision for the eParty is to spawn a web based political movement which unites 5 million americans within a democratically controlled lobby where everyone has a completely equal voice. i believe that it would be possible for this group to become the most powerful (and feared) lobby. moveon.org has proven that it is possible for people to come together on the web and be heard on key issues, both in showing their numbers and more importantly voting their dollars. the vision of eParty is to offer this same power in a manner which is completely directed by its members. any member can post a new idea which can gain popular support. with critical mass that idea can become a new lobbying platform. members can direct money and even votes towards that cause. think ebay meets issue based politics. i envision a world where candidates can be proud to proclaim that they have 'sold out to the people'.

i believe that most people in this country feel completely disenfranchised from the political system. most are 'too smart' to waste their time on grassroots efforts which rarely generate real impact. many feel that not voting sends a better message to washington, as participation provides fake validation for races between candidates that nobody supports who in turn are forced to serve big PACs and other commercial interests who provide the funds to decide elections.

i believe that people are desparate for a voice. we all know that there exists a plethora of issues where popular opinion is never voiced or served. the best examples include real gun control (ie. no more handguns) and legalizing marajauna. i do not believe i will live to see viable legislation introduced on either. yet we live in a country where the average sentence for selling pot is 13 years and the average for armed robbery is 8 years. clearly the lesson is if you're ever stopped for selling a bag, pull out a gun:)

i believe that given a perceived viable path to having a voice, to taking back our government people will come out in droves. but we have to lower the bar for expressing a voice to the level of a few clicks, not a day of door knocking; and those clicks better lead to action, not some circle jerk poll.

Core Concept of an 'eParty' - giving the people a voice

the eParty should enable any group to come together around shared views/passions on a particular political topic; and to enable that group to have a real voice in moving and shaping the national agenda and ultimately policy. eParty would enable people to form 'soap boxes' around their issues with elected moderators. these could occur ad hoc around any issue - ie. 'stop alaska drilling', 'end the war'; but their would never be any fixed agenda. in other words, 'the process is the platform'.

with 5 million members paying potentially $10 a year, eParty could become the most powerful lobby in the US. the eParty would have its own staff of professional lobbists in Washington. members of soap boxes could identify candidates who they believed were for and against their agendas. this might happen by vote.

Getting There

i propose the creation of small working group to turn these into more actionable ideas. i realize that joi ito has been driving a discussion around emergent democracy. while i support that effort and hope to add to it, i would like to also move beyond theory and discussion to action.

i believe that achieving tangible results and then generating press around them can create a positive spiral, creating real momentum and convincing people they're not helpless and they can have a voice.

i am also excited about the opportunity to leverage the blog world to enable several hundred thousand people to connect on issues. one idea is to enable people to setup political platform sections on their blogs in which they can name issues and positions which could then be aggregated into meta issue blogs.

Feedback and Next Steps

I would really love to hear from people on these ideas, but i'll admit i'm a lot more interested in constructive ways to get a movement started than debating issues like whether it will include disconnected people.