Friday, October 30, 2009

Interesting Political Articles: Organizing for America and Gerrymandering

Disorganized: What happened to Obama's massive network of grassroots activists?

from The New Republic
Last year, after winning the presidency, Obama decided to keep intact the backbone of his stunningly efficient, innovative campaign. Previous presidents had outsourced their activism to interest groups; Obama was going to create his own. OFA was supposed to be a new kind of permanent campaign: a grassroots network wielding some 13 million email addresses to mobilize former volunteers on behalf of the administration's agenda (and keep them engaged for 2012). "We've never had a political leader who has continued their organizing while in office like this at this scale," Tom Matzzie, former Washington director of MoveOn, told NPR in January.

As right-wing protesters dominated the news this summer, it would have seemed the perfect opportunity for Obama's much-touted organizers to drown out the conservatives with some coordinated agitation of their own. But they barely made a ripple. Where were they? And how could such a formidable grassroots operation--having just put Obama in office--fall quiet so quickly?

Full article at The New Republic

Redistricting and Gerrymandering: Can the Internet Help?

from the Personal Democracy Forum
Gerrymandering has long been one of the ugly little secrets of American politics, and absolutely one of the arenas where the role of technology has been to make politics worse, not better. Every ten years, after a new census is completed, state legislatures redraw district lines, using powerful computers that essentially enable them to pick their voters before the voters ever have a chance to pick them. Wonder why 94% to 98% of incumbent Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are have been re-elected every cycle since 1996? Or why so few House seats--generally only one-in-ten--are considered up for grabs each cycle? This has long been one of those problems mostly of interest to academics and good government groups, and while everyone wrings their hands about how the resulting lack of electoral competition is bad for democracy, fosters polarization and entrenches corruption, so far no one has figured out how to make ending gerrymandering into a more popular cause.

Enter, a new site built by Avencia, a firm that specializes in web-based geographic analysis, visualization and modeling applications. The site offers an intriguing way of breaking down the barrier to public engagement on this issue, and, if it manages to draw more support, could actually change the game by showing citizens how easy it is to draw fair political boundaries, and how corrupt the process is now.

Full article at the Personal Democracy Forum

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