How the Internet Will Affect Politics and Government

I finished Joe Trippi’s book last night, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything. I marked hundreds of passages and dog-eared dozens of pages. This is one man’s insider view of how the Dean campaign revolutionized political campaigns forever, but more importantly, how “open source” politics will finally overthrow the top-down broadcast politics system we’ve been living with in the age of television. As one who decries the impact television has had on public discourse (I read Amusing Ourselves to Death: The Death of Public Discourse in the Age of Television ten or more years ago), morality, and health in this country, I am thrilled with Trippi’s book.

He gets it. He gets how power is inevitably shifting away from governments and political parties and corporations who try to ramrod internally developed policies and plans down our throats to communities of organized citizens and customers who will no long allow this to happen. Companies and organizations who re-invent themselves to catch this new wave will thrive and prosper; those who don’t will founder.

But this is so non-intuitive and so counter to how business and government has been done in our lifetimes that I believe very few people will make this shift.

Even at an internet pure-play company like MyFamily.com, a company that I co-founded with the goal of providing genealogy data from every nation and a free private web space to connect every family in the world–a company that thrives when the community creates the content and the conversation–I would say that most of our managers and employees still think and act in the traditional top-down decision-making and corporate marketing model. The Internet playbook that I followed borrowed heavily from the theories in Net.Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities.

Trippi’s book explains the impact of online communities on politics and government as Net.Gain did for internet business.

If you have any interest in the future of democracy, in self-government, in ridding American or the nation in which you live of the corruption that comes from centralized power combined with the distortion of truth which is nearly always found in traditional media, with it’s one-way communication mode and 30-second sound byte form of discourse, if you want to be empowered to make a difference in the future of your world, I strongly recommend Trippi’s book combined with a heavy dose of the Federalist Papers, Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, and as many other works by US Founding Fathers as you can find. Trippi himself cites Jefferson about a dozen times in this book.

As Net.Gain was the manual for Ancestry.com/MyFamily.com to build the largest genealogy community in the world, with as many as 15 million unique monthly visitors to its various web sites, then I see The Revolution Will Not Be Televised as the primary guidebook for our iCount.com, our new political community web service which is today only in its earliest stages, but which already has thousands of registered users who want to make their vote count every day of every year, and not just once every 2-4 years during an election cycle.

We are determined to arm every independent-minded American with powerful tools to connect with other like-minded people around issues, not partisanship, to organize, to take action, and to make a difference in the local, state, and national community.

We are tired of politics as usual.

I am especially tired of party politics, where vilifying the opposition leads to the politics of hate and where meaningful discussion of issues within a party are stifled because of the overwhelming requirement of party loyalty.

I’m an American first, a member of a political party second.

Our elected leaders must put the good of the country first and not sacrifice it to preserve their power or position.

George Washington warned us more than 200 years ago in his Farewell Address:

“Let me . . . warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally. . . . The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

Trippi claims that 70% of Americans are dissatisfied with both parties.

He also explains how negative campaigning works to defeat individual candidates but backfires on the entire political system by causing all of us to believe that all politicians are evil and dishonest. No wonder everyone, especially the young, are disengaged and apathetic. They think the system is corrupt and there is nothing they can do about it.

I agree with Joe Trippi. The power is in our hands. We can organize, using the transformational technology that will soon be within the reach of every citizen, and take back our government and force corporations to “not be evil” and exploitive.

One of the reasons I don’t drink, don’t smoke, eat healthy (a Jamba Juice a day!), run several times a week, spend a lot of time with family, and generally live a happy and balanced lifestyle, no longer sacrifice my health “for the good of the company” (as Trippi almost killed himself off during the Dean campaign–I did that during Ancestry.com’s early years) is that I want to live to be 100, to see where technology takes our civilization, to watch the impact of the internet, global cell phone adoption, biotechnology, nanotechnology, alternative energy, robotics, and more. It’s the most fascinating age in the history of the world. And the more I take care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually, the better my chances to live to a ripe old age (my grandmother made it to 104!) and observe how this phenomenal age plays out. Fortunately, Mormon males (of which I am one) generally outlive the average male by 7 years, but that only gets me to age 77. I need to do something to get those extra 23 years. Maybe it’s lots of vitamin C. Maybe it’s Patch-Adam’s type laughing therapy. My grandma ate cracked-wheat cereal virtually every morning for breakfast, while I’ve been living for most of my life on cold cereal. I don’t think that’s working in my favor.

OK, so back to the Trippi book.

Buy it. Read it. Study it. Live it. Join the internet revolution in American politics, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln)

2 Comments

  1. […] After I finished Joe Trippi’s book in July 2004 (which ought to be required reading for every political candidate in this country) I wrote this impassioned post about how the internet will affect politics and government. It may be one of my best posts ever. Unfortunately, our political social networking site iCount was never fully funded or fully developed. So it sits today as a site that aggregates political feeds. Fortunately, Phil Windley has kept it alive. When Provo Labs has more bandwidth, perhaps we should revitalize it. […]

  2. Paul,

    I just got my copy of this book (4 bucks on the internet for a brand new copy, sweet!) I look forward to reading it and learning more about the possibilities of open-source politics.

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