Obama Opens Up Online Health Care Discussion

As part of his ethics reform package, Obama proposed making the internet not only a tool for furthering government transparency but for fostering civic engagement.  The internet is not just there to disseminate information but to allow citizens to interact with their government: he imagined regular broadband townhall meetings from cabinet officials, opening up public regulatory hearings online, and creating an area on the White House website for public comment on pending legislation.  Details here.
Now Obama has opened up a blog devoted exclusively to discussing health care and soliciting input.  The goal is to create "a real forum for discussion and debate as a way to refine understanding and evolve solutions." This is a continuation and further development of Obama's social networking website towards including more policy discussion and will be called "My Policy," involving discussions on a variety of issues.  Until now, "My Policy" has mainly been used as a way of gathering annecdotes from supporters for policy speeches, but the goal is now to move towards creating a dialogue.  

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The Generation Gap: Youth Organizing and the Blogosphere

On Tuesday I attended the Campus Progress National Student Conference.  One of the panels I attended was "Starting an Online Revolution." It was not a well-attended panel, perhaps because it was the end of the day, or perhaps because Millennials are so immersed in online media that most people felt their time was better spent elsewhere.  One thing that struck me, as I listened to the speakers and their student questioners, was that not a single person - panelist or student - mentioned the blogosphere.  

This wasn't entirely shocking.  According to the latest Blogads survey, 14-30 year olds make up just 16% of the blogosphere, and I've long noticed that most blogs run by youth organizations are disconnected both from each other and from the larger blogosphere.  Campus Progress and Young People For both operate their own internal blog communities, but the content on these blogs frequently runs days (sometimes weeks) behind the regular blogosphere chatter, and rarely responds to what the larger blogosphere is discussing or writes in any way that would indicate the users even read the major progressive blogs.  

In some respects, the lack of interest and effort is understandable.  More young people are politically engaged online through social networks than through blogs.  Students and other young organizers need to go where their peers gather, so much organizing takes place on those sites.  By working on and through social networks, youth organizers are building another branch of the netroots and bringing their fellow Millennials politics.  That is good, and nothing I'm writing here is meant to denigrate that or suggest that it is work that should not be done, or even made second horse to greater blogosphere participation.

On the other hand, the disadvantages are readily apparent.  Youth organizations are not adequately preparing their members for participation in the new political landscape.   There is a political literacy level that is not being met.  Local blogs are increasingly an important piece of progressive infrastructure, and if young organizers aren't reading the major blogs, I'm guessing they're even less likely to know about (let alone how to approach and partner with) local blogs that might be an information resource and outlet for their local activities.  These organizations are also losing the valuable echo chamber/media amplifier and (psychological, intellectual, monetary, volunteer) support network that blogs can provide.  

In short, the progressive youth movement is almost completely disconnected from the progressive blogosphere.  There is very little (it would be hyperbole to say "none") connective tissue between these two subsections of the netroots.

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Field and GOTV with Facebook

Before I jump in, let me say thanks to Chris for giving me this great opportunity to chat about my ideas here, and to the MyDD community as a whole for giving me such great feedback on previous posts.  I used to post under the username 'PlantingLiberally', so you may be familiar with my earlier stuff (and you can still find it, I believe, by clicking my username).  My main goal is to spread the practice of liberal entrepreneurship as a strategy for strengthening the progressive movement.  To support that goal, I write about two basic subjects: business ideas which liberal entrepreneurs can snatch up and turn into a profitable enterprise, and mechanisms the progressive movement can develop to support liberal entrepreneurs.  I am an entrepreneur myself, so there is an element of self-interest in all of this.  But I hope that many others can benefit as well.  Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!

The announcement of Facebook Platform last week has been a sea change in the way the social web operates.  While social networking applications used to be a set of web-based tools for communicating within the gated walls of the network's website, they didn't offer much in the way of letting third parties communicate with those users.  Now, the Facebook application platform makes it possible for any third-party vendor to make use of Facebook's tools and large, established user base, in a variety of flexible ways.  I think this platform opens up an opportunity for liberal entrepreneurs to create a stunning new field/GOTV application that radically re-imagines the way we "do" grassroots politics.

Last week, Matt wrote a bit about Disruptive Field Tools, focused mostly on the problem of voter registration and the possibilities offered by Rock the Vote's API.  Today I'm going to extend that idea a bit more, so that we start to have some idea of the potential power that the Facebook platform gives us in registering voters, gathering supporters, and turning them out to the polls.  I haven't had a chance to read through the full developer documentation for Facebook apps, so some of this is speculation.  But my understanding is that most of these ideas should be possible.  We're only waiting on an enterprising progressive developer to take them on, and an enthusiastic progressive community (ahem, that's you) to refine and perfect these ideas.

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Democracy and Networks

You know, one way of looking at MyDD is to see it as a tremendous social experiment. Not only are we trying to restructure the political process in the United States, we're relying upon the wisdom of crowds to do it. Look at my post last night about my upcoming trip to New Orleans. Within a few hours, commenters collaborated to produce a stellar set of suggestions on what to see and do while there. Two commenters formed a relationship, one inviting the other to write on a Louisiana-focused blog. I've heard from other commenters via email. I'll be working with and relying upon a few people down in New Orleans who I met only because I put up that post. In the best cases, in networks we progressives find both smarts and strength.

Last night at the New School here in New York City there was a panel on "Democratization and the Networked Public Sphere" featuring three academics -- danah boyd, Ethan Zuckerman, and Trebor Scholz. I read boyd and Zuckerman fairly religiously, she on social media and he on technology and the developing world. Some of what was said last night might seem a bit far afield from our discussions of progressive politics. But really, I don't think any of it was. At the very least, together it makes up the context for our net neutrality fight. Follow me beyond the jump.

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Support Children's Health Care, Befriend Susie Flynn

OK, so who is Susie Flynn? She's ten years old and she's running for President. I know, I know, Susie can't actually be President. But that doesn't mean she can't run, and the campaign (a Children's Defense Fund project) is geared toward putting the issue of health insurance for children (or lack there of) front and center.

It's an issue that is a no-brainer for Democrats, and can really put Republicans back on their heels.  Many of us progressives probably agree that it is a tragedy that more than 9 million children in this country don't have health insurance, but sometimes issues as important as this get lost in the coverage of the 2008 horse race and the non-stop debate over the Iraq war.  John Edwards has talked the most about health care so far, and the other candidates have paid lip service, but more needs to be done.

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