We’re about to roll into another U.S. Presidential campaign. The mass media tends to cover such events in an “issue of the week” style. Thus one can read a newspaper and learn a candidate’s position on the current hot issue but it is very difficult to form a comprehensive picture of what a politician has said and done on the campaign trail (note the avoidance of the phrase “what the politician stands for” because this presumably shifts with opinion poll results).
Could the Internet be usefully applied to the challenge of informing voters?
Idea 1 (not mine): every resident of New Hampshire sets up a blog and, if he or she encounters a Presidential candidate, writes down what happened. Aggregation tools enable those of us who don’t live in New Hampshire, and whose vote is not therefore worth personal attention, to get glimpses of the real men and women running for office (imagine if Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones had been running blogs back when Bill Clinton was on the campaign trail; that would have been all-too-real :-)).
This idea, powerful though it might be, would not seem to help voters grapple with the challenge of forming a comprehensive picture of any one candidate.
Idea 2: Build a dynamic outline of all the political issues that are on citizens’ minds in 2004. Have people in New Hampshire and other campaign-heavy states augment this outline with real-time reports of personal interactions with politicians. By November 2004 this outline should be filled with information, presented in a way that is useful for making decisions, all stuff that voters could never get from the mass media.
What would it take to make this happen? A bit of database programming for a Web server and a small team of part-time editors whose job would be to remove/suppress duplicate reports and off-topic postings, i.e., ones that go beyond a factual report of “Jane Candidate said X on Date Y”.