Emergent Hypocrisy

While Lessig and Searls accept the legitimacy of the democratic recall, some of our Emergent Democracy advocates are having a hard time with the people’s judgment.

Ross Mayfield tries to convey an untenable distinction between Emergent Democracy as an exercise of the pure of heart in contrast to the Big Money pollution that envelopes government in a capitalist economy:

Emergent Democracy should differ from Direct Democracy. Self-organization, deliberation, and citizen driven initiatives — where the constraint is equal interest of the people — is in stark contrast to modern direct democracy. Dean’s decentralized organization is in contrast to professional pertitioners.

Joi Ito beats the tom-toms in favor of grass-roots elitism as an alternative to the rule of the unwashed masses:

Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots. It’s the difference between a couch potato clicking the vote button and a group of people starting their own Dean coalition group.

And Mitch Ratcliffe chimes in with some loud clucks against The Politicians:

The question in emergent democracy is how to make everyone a politician, again. In early democracies, every citizen–a narrowly defined group of patricians, in most cases–was expected to be involved. The problem we have today is that most citizens leave politics “to the professionals” and then complain that they feel alienated from the system.

This is an awfully pure and austere model, where the people have to each and every one take the time out of their busy days to study each and every issue for themselves in order to govern without representatives, or at least without paid ones.

The question that it raises following the recall is, of course, how the people — even when armed with super-fantastic blogware — can make detailed policy decisions if they can’t be trusted by the technical elite to make basic personnel decisions as we did in the recall.

And if a Dean Meetup is an example of Emergent Democracy and good, how can it be that a group of grass-roots volunteers lead by Ted Costa organizing a petition drive is bad? When Ted Costa let Darrell Issa pay some signature gatherers a pittance ($1.5M, compared to the $10M Davis spent warping the Republican primary) wasn’t that an example of leading by giving up control?

Obviously, Emergent Democracy is any process that defeats the Republican Party, whether it’s in Sacramento, Washington, or Baghdad, and the process is utterly unimportant.

UPDATE: Ratcliffe says I’ve got him all wrong. What he really wants is:

…citizens should be able to organize to address specific issues without having to embrace the top-down plans of government. That means organizing to have their own representatives on specific issues, figuring out ways to pay them (enough money flows in politics–it’s an industry) to hive off some portion of a living from being involved in one’s community.

It appears to me he’s just described the Recall. Citizens organized to address the problem of Gray Davis’ lack of honesty and leadership, and rather than relying on his top-down leadership style (“the legislature is here to implement my vision”) they replaced him with a man who represented their values. They figured out how to pay for the recall by putting their own money up, and they hired campaign consultants and attorneys to remove the barriers erected by the ACLU, the Casinos, the labor unions, and the other anti-democratic forces in California.

If you like democracy, of any kind, you have to love the recall.

Dean’s campaign too “blog-centric”

Some pols notice that Howard Dean’s supporters are all professionals, just half of the traditional Democratic constituency that usually encompasses working and unemployed people alike. See Howard Kurtz, just over half-way down:

This concern, which has popped up repeatedly in the media, is shared by many other Dean supporters, including Richard Hoefer, a San Francisco filmmaker who believes that the campaign has been too ‘blog-centric.’ Asked if he thinks there’s a homogeneity to Dean’s base, Hoefer responds, ‘You mean whitey?’

We know that blogging, like political giving, is only for white professionals, but voting is something everybody gets to do, so Dean may not be as strong as he looks based simply on fundraising.

Whither techno-populism?

It strikes me as odd that techno-populist Larry Lessig and his many disciples (Weinberger, Searls, Gillmor, Ito, Winer, et. al.) are are bitterly opposed to the recall. If you believe in grass-roots democracy, emergent democracy, and self-organizing movements, why stomp your feet and hurl angry insults about right-wing coups when the people have mobilized to make their voices heard? It just makes no sense. Lessig even tries to use some fuzzy math to invalidate the successor election:

So if this California recall succeeds, then more likely than not the Governor who replaces Gray Davis will have received fewer votes than Gray Davis. Davis could get, say, 49.9% of the vote, and would be “recalled.” But his replacement is chosen with a simple plurality. Thus, in a field of 200 candidates, it is more likely than not that the replacement governor will have gotten fewer votes than the governor he replaces.

This is what we call an “apples to oranges” comparison, since we have one election with a field of one and another election with field of a hundred or so. But even accepting Lessig’s handicap, Arnie’s polling better than the governor right now, 48 – 26.

One upside of the recall is that it’s taken both Kobe Bryant and the Nine Dwarves of the Democratic Party off page one for a while, and maybe that’s what’s got the TechPops upset: they’re mainly hardcore Deanies, after all.

And who’s advising Weinberger?

David Weinberger announces he’s joined Howard Dean’s campaign:

I now have an official title — “Senior Internet Advisor” — so I figure I should come out of the closet entirely.

I was going to leave this comment on Weinberger’s blog, but thought better of it:

It’s great that you’re advising Dean on the Internet, David, as he clearly needs to understand it.

Now the question that pops into my little mind is: “who’s advising you?”

That would have been rude, of course. But the point is that Weinberger, as a card-carrying, charter member of the Larry Lessig “End of the Internet” club has consistently demonstrated a lack of understanding of what the Internet is, how it’s put together, and where it’s going. In this job, that’s not a disadvantage, as all he needs to do is rail against Big Everything to advance the Little Guy’s campaign.

So good luck to all concerned.

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