The American political landscape is being redefined right before our eyes by the Internet and the lessons its use has taught us about how to quickly find information we need and act on it. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have redefined how we connect with each other and keep track of fast moving events in our lives.
Crowdsourcing will end up being the phenomenon of the 2010 Election and those that follow brought about by the growth in size and influence of a leaderless group of people who share common concerns and want to do something about it. It has enabled and empowered a leaderless TEA Party movement to redefine the issues of the campaign and force both parties to pay attention to our citizen “pain points.”
Crowdsourcing was first coined used by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing“. Howe said that technological advances had driven down the price of consumer electronics so that the gap between the technologies we use at work professionals is no longer prohibitive for use of the same technology at home. In fact, since he wrote that in 2006 the fast rise of mobile web access with smart phones and other devices means individual users may actually be the early adopters well before corporate IT permits such things as iPhones or build the business apps for iPads. Howe described a marketplace of ideas where companies could take advantage of the talent of the public, and said that “It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.”
Fast forward to 2010 when the TEA Party movement exploded on the stage the Democrats referred to it as a rebellion inside the Republican Party. But that was only partly correct. It was a rebellion but it is affecting both parties and changing everything from the alliances in Congress on key issues to the shape of the election issues to the strategies used by candidates, lobbyists and the political consultants who thought they knew how to run campaigns—until now.
While the Democrats mocked her Governor Sarah Pail tweeted them back with a speed and razor sharp retorts that cut to the bone many of the traditional political concepts. The success of TEA Party movement candidates is not caused solely by the crowdsourcing power of the TEA Party itself but by the speed with which crowdsourcing itself has been used to refine and hone the message to bring along many other people who share the same fears, angst and aspirations. It did not take Gallup Polls to get the message right, it only took about 24 hours of tweets.
Now the Democrats have ‘beat cheeks’ out of Washington DC as if they feel burned by its proximity and think running for cover back to their districts will let them get away with their traditional campaign strategy when things are going bad with their message—negative advertising. Only this time the tweets of fact checkers and the crowdsourced judgment of constituents produces a raucous turnout at campaign events and town hall meetings ready to give incumbent of both parties a rough time.
Crowdsourcing is the worst of both worlds for politicians. At one in the same time it nationalizes the election by galvanizing the crowd around their common concerns about the “big issues” such as Federal spending, deficits, ObamaCare, unemployment, rising taxes and other consequences of the progressive agenda the Democrats have pursued. At the same time, crowdsourcing makes all politics local as never before galvanizing the home town crowd to turn out to speak out.
Republicans thought they could just blame all the problems of the country on Democrats and that would be enough to win. Democrats thought they could blame Republicans for having no new ideas as if that absolved them of their sins of overreach. Crowdsourcing has delivered the “pox on both your houses” message to both parties.
Thomas Jefferson would love this rebellion at work today among the crowd.
But the real challenge may not be winning the 2010 election for new faces with new ideas. The challenge is going to be governing and using the same crowdsourcing tools that make it easy to blow the whistle on a political miscreant to instead search for a common ground solution that brings people together around consensus for changes we can really believe in that will turn the country around while there is still time to fix it.
Can you imagine anyplace else on earth where a spontaneous political movement like the TEA party could arrive on the scene with such intensity without serious repercussions? Whether you agree with the TEA party views or not this is a pure and perfect exercise of the constitutionally celebrated freedom of speech, assembly and petition.
Thomas Jefferson would love this.
Perhaps it is because after more than 234 years we have come to accept—and even welcome a little revolution now and then to shake up the status quo. A recent Gallup poll reports that Americans’ confidence in Congress is at the lowest level in decades.
“A record-low 36% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the legislative branch of government, down sharply from the prior record low of 45% set last year. Trust in the judicial branch and trust in the executive branch also suffered sharp declines this year but remain higher than trust in the legislative branch.”
“Trust in the legislative branch was highest, at 71%, in May 1972, and remained generally high from that point to the mid-2000s. It then dropped to 50% in 2007, 47% in 2008, and 45% in 2009, all record lows at the time they were measured. This year’s 36% legislative confidence rating marks still another record low, and is the lowest trust level in any of the three branches of government in Gallup’s history.”
“Trust in the executive branch has shifted up and down with some frequency over the last four decades, generally in sync with movement in presidential job approval ratings. Gallup measured the lowest level of trust in the executive branch, 40%, in April 1974, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, which later that year resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation. Trust was nearly as low in the waning years of the George W. Bush administration. Last year, the first year of the Barack Obama administration, trust in the executive branch shot up to 61%, but it has fallen back again this year, coinciding with the fall in Obama’s job approval ratings to below 50%.”
“Trust in the judicial branch of government is at 66%, down from last year but roughly in line with readings since 2003. Gallup recorded the highest judicial branch trust reading, 80%, in February 1999, at about the time the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice William Rehnquist was presiding in the U.S. Senate over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.”
These people we have elected to Congress in the past are not bad people. But some of them have been there too long, have come to see their views as “righter” than those of their constituents, and more recently have seriously misread the public desire for a change in leadership at the top with public support for a sweeping intrusion into the lives of average Americans with breathlessly large expenditures of money we do not have.
The TEA party movement is a uniquely American way of telling our politicians—You are so busted!
The Democrats see this coming but the Gallup polls suggest the public is just as uncertain that electing the same old Republican team will produce a better result. That is why the TEA party movement has gained such momentum so fast. It is seen as made up of people more like us. It seems to reflect the “common sense, Main Street” values we hear about so much but see practiced in Washington DC so little. The recession has sapped our confidence and we don’t see the policies and spending deployed to restore the ship of state as working very well.
We long for a return to traditional times, traditional values, traditional economic conditions of growth that resulted in traditional jobs with benefits. Whether that toothpaste can be put back into the tube is uncertain but candidates who promise to try to do so are favored this year over those who are seen as part of the problem.
So Jefferson’s revolutionary spirit first writ large in the Declaration of Independence and then embodied in our early government lives large again today. But it is the other genius of America that is more lasting and arguably more important—the ability of America to reinvent itself, to adapt, to grow into tomorrow. From the early lessons of de Tocqueville that ability to imagine a future better than the past and live into it has separated America from every other nation on earth.
It is why today 234 years later people still clamor to come to America—to live the American Dream. And no one has ever been shot in the back trying to escape America because no one can imagine the need to do so.
There is much we need to fix in our country but the lack of confidence in our Congress and our disappointment with our President’s job performance are serving Jefferson’s genius well today 234 years later offering a little revolution and a continuous process of reinvention.
Celebrate it—-and make sure you vote!
While the politicians in Washington and elsewhere try to figure out what the TEA Party is and how it affects them, America seems to have already made its judgment. The answer:
Those TEA Party people are just like me! And I’m mad as hell at the direction of the country too.
The Republicans in Congress hoped the TEA Party would help them swamp the Democrats boat and restore the Republican majority—-but they are learning the hard lesson that America often sees little difference between the two parties actual behavior once they are in the majority.
Election 2010 is one of those ‘a pox on both your houses’ near death experiences for both political parties as incumbents on both sides of the political aisle get washed overboard. Democrats are getting fired for doing a bad job. Republicans are getting fired for being too much like Democrats.
Thomas Jefferson must be cheering from his grave over this glorious rebellion.
But the GOP brass in Washington reacted to Christine O’Donnell’s defeat of long time Delaware pol Mike Castle with shock and shot back—don’t count on any help from us, sister! They call her a flaky candidate who cannot win—and worse risk the Republican win they expected from Castle to help take control of the Senate.
There is one problem with the GOP logic. O’Donnell beat Castle 53% to 47% for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. Castle’s problem with the voters of very blue Delaware was he voted for almost all of the Obama agenda the TEA Party members are railing about including ObamaCare and Stimulus programs.
If The Democrats agenda can’t win in deep blue Delaware they are in deep, deep trouble. And Castle got “fired” by Delaware Republicans because he behaved too much like the Democrats they are disgusted with and voted for their agenda.
Panic has set in not just on the Democrat side of the aisle but the GOP side too. The prospects of cheering crowds sweeping the good ole boys of the GOP back into power are giving way to the cold, stark reality that the young guns are at the door and the TEA Party faithful are right behind them locked and loaded to take back the country.
Call it a generational change, call it a rebellion, call it a great awakening—-the President’s bluff has been called and he has thrown away his aces in an audacious gamble that is failing. Maybe the President hopes that if he loses Congress to the good old boys of the GOP in 2010 he could blame them in 2012. But the independents that supported him in 2008 are moving in droves to the TEA Party.
The risk to the nation is that at a time when we crave stability and adult leadership we might just get angry, impassioned, but inexperienced leaders in Congress who act first and think about the consequences later. Or we could get good old Main Street business people who know how to make payroll, live within the budget, read the bills they are asked to consider BEFORE they vote on them, make common sense decisions to serve their Country then go home to go back to work.
What a concept!
Scenario Signpost: RELOAD
This is a signpost for the Reload: America’s New Industrial Revolution Scenario. The plot line of that scenario is a major swing in electoral focus toward restoring America’s economy and job creating potential by reindustrializing the US and expanding domestic energy production to support it.
Volatility is a wonderful thing. It not only brings profits to some willing to take risk, it punishes the foolish and teaches them lessons that make them stronger. Some days just aren’t that great in times of volatility, but we keep going because we believe that tomorrow will be better, that we will be wiser the next time, and it reminds us of the values and principles that ground us to reality. That is the natural optimist in each of us, but it also works for companies and countries too.
We are living through one of those funky periods where life seems out of control and surreal. Just when we think things are getting better something completely unexpected like a ‘flash crash’ of 1000 points happens on Wall Street. Just when we think our energy situation is improving because advanced technology has enabled domestic production to go up, BP blows it and mucks up the Gulf of Mexico. Just when the global markets show signs of growth Greece bleeds red ink and threatens to take the rest of the PIIGs or even the Euro with it.
Volatility teaches us lessons the hard way so we remember them.
What are you talking about, you ask?
- EURO RESPONSIBILITY. After months of finger pointing by European leaders that the world’s economic problems were caused by those nasty American bankers and shady credit default swaps and other instruments of financial torture, we learn that ancient Greece has been up to its ancient ways cooking its books to hide its budget deficit borrowing money like Wall Street speculators from European banks eager for the transaction fees. As Bogart said best “I’m shocked to hear that gambling is going on here!” But this time it was the GERMAN sheriff stepping in to break up the mayhem and restore order.
- GHOST OF CALIFORNIA’S CHRISTMAS FUTURE. For California, living near the edge is not something we learned from Greece but our fate could be similar to Athens when judgment day arrives. Those Greeks rioting because their pensions, salaries and spending irresponsibility was purchased with borrowed money look a lot like the California state employees, CALPERS, and the feckless State Legislature.
- ARIZONA, MEXICO, DRUGS AND CONTROL OF THE BORDER. Drug cartels fight for control of markets and supply routes leaving a trail of violence and lawlessness sweeping Mexico. Now that violence spills over the US border but the Federal Government does little to stop it. Arizona’s Governor is appointed Secretary of Homeland Security and its expectations that the Feds will help are raised then dashed when nothing happens. After years of writing letters to Republican Feds, Secretary Napolitano now ignores the same plaintive letters from her successor as Governor. The parties switched places but the results are the same—NOTHING! So Arizona ups the ante by adopting SB1070—a virtual mirror of Federal law except it prohibits racial profiling (something not prohibited in Federal law) in an effort to get the Feds to act. President Obama then accuses Arizona of racial profiling intentions. President Calderon correctly points out that drugs are a problem because of US drug demand. While he disses Arizona for SB1070 in a state visit Mexico’s own immigration law is much more onerous than the Arizona law. Mexico depends upon the remittances from Mexicans working in the US to family back home to help prop up its failing economy. There are immigration issues which must be addressed, but this is political malfeasance where both Democrats and Republicans seek to use a divisive issue to score political points. Shame on both of them!
- A POX ON BOTH PARTIES! Republicans hope for an election bloodletting as Americans recoil from the stunning overreach of Democrats misreading their mandate and misusing the recession and economic volatility to impose a program of deficits spending, vast intrusions into business and daily life, and a blitzkrieg of legislation with little transparency hoping to enact their agenda before midterm elections. But as voters it seems like we just kicked out the Republicans for the same reasons—they forgot who they work for! Now we are unsure that returning them to majorities will be much of an improvement.
- CHANGE WE DON’T BELIEVE IN ANYMORE. The president’s popularity was born of Americans joy at his election as a symbol to the world of our redemption from discrimination past and our belief in the principles of the founders that “all men are created equal” for the future. But the celebration has turned moody feeling deceived that this change is not really what we expected. Americans see little difference between the Democrats overreach in power today rewarding their friends and the Republicans overreach in power yesterday doing the same. Sometimes those friends are the same bankers, unions and lobbyists pouring money into the political accounts of politicians to gain favor. The Tea Party movement is a powerful and terrifying symbol of American dedication to its Constitutional values for our political class and due notice that the revenge of the voters will be exacted on both parties before it runs its course.
So why am I optimistic?
The genius of America has always been our ability to adapt to change and reinvent ourselves to take advantage of opportunities presented. The volatility and economic shock we have experienced combined with the political wake-up call we are experiencing now are the best evidence of that American renewal process at work today.
The midterm elections will punish incumbents in both parties. But we hope it will bring in new blood with a deeper commitment to the values we seek to advance and less partisanship. We have learned as voters that we get better results in Congress when both parties fear us. Giving big majorities to either party rarely works out well for us so we need to keep them evenly balanced and have good “adult supervision” from our president to set a wise course.
So far Obama is not winning any ‘Rookie of the Year’ awards but we still hope he can turn things around. But as insurance we are likely to take away his majority in at least one house of Congress this November. And if his performance does not improve we may not renew his contract in 2012.
Volatility separates those with a future from those with just a past.
The difference between America and Greece is while we both celebrate our past, America lives into its future. Our manifest destiny was reinvented from a quest for control of our continent to a quest to project our values of liberty, competitive markets and the rule of law into a world that craves each.
We won the cold war and now are completing the circle of the end of that long struggle. Had America as the sole superpower after the Cold War sought to preserve its hegemony we would not have seen the rise of China as a great economic power, the integration of Europe, the natural spread of democracy and thirst for freedom all celebrated as global progress. But progress also brings problems we now share with a more integrated world including the struggle to deal with Islamic terrorism, bad boy countries in the continental neighborhoods that must be policed, and the unintended consequences of global markets and trade. But that interdependence is also strength since the consequence of not working together is worse than the price of compromise.
The world still needs American leadership but what it wants is American resolve to live into its core values and act predictably to advance them. The world worries when America’s President apologizes for America’s values or advancing America’s self interest. In a choice between having the world love us and having them respect us take the latter every time.
When we live into our American values we set the global compass to true north and enable others to act in their self interest in ways that are either deliberately in concert with our own or—if they feel daring opposed to them. If America wimps out and lets such challenges pass we only invite more dangerous behaviors. But when we stand up for our values—and for our friends and allies—we don’t need to apologize for our behavior.
Volatility is a wonderful thing because it separates the brave from the bullies.
The best way to deal with bullies has always been to confront them face to face and expose them for what they are. Bravery is learned from experience and is born of self confidence and values that are stronger than the fears we face.
That is why I have faith in America’s future! But I am still going to enjoy kicking both Democrat and Republican butts this election. I am not a Libertarian like Rand Paul but he said it for all of us election night in Kentucky:
“We are coming to take back out country!”