Today is President’s Day in the U.S., celebrating the February birthdays of past presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. But rather than looking back, I’d like to look forward to the next president of the United States — whoever he or she will be — and consider how they might use technology and new media to be more responsive to us.
In theory, our elected officials are supposed to represent our interests in a representative democracy. In practice, our elected officials usually are more interested in what their donors or lobbyists think. But with all the talk during the campaign about finance reform and the disavowal of corporate influence, perhaps we can hope for more next year.
I’d like to make this a group exercise, and will kick it off by listing some ways that I think the next president can use technology to be more responsive. I would like you to send in your ideas so we can make this an even better, more comprehensive list.
Presidential Participatory Media
> Write a regular blog or Twitter feed that would update the electorate on what you’re thinking and doing in official and personal affairs. Allow people to comment and respond on the blog.
> Put major policy initiatives into wikis before they are brought to Capitol Hill. That would allow people to annotate and comment on the initiatives when they are in earlier stages. The wiki would have to be moderated in some way to keep out pranksters and trouble-makers. Imagine how useful this tool might be when you are stuck in a foreign policy conundrum.
> Live online chats or video Q&As. Rather than just the usual boring presidential press conferences, maybe you could go online and answer people’s questions in real time via text chat. Or you could use the 10Questions format to get the highest-voted questions by voters, and then answer them via online video.
> Transparent, online schedule. Put your entire daily schedule online in an application that we all can view. Unless the meeting is about something related to war or national security, we have a right to know who is meeting with you and whether they are staying overnight at the White House.
> Show us the money. Every time someone donates money to you, we want to know who they are, how much they gave and where they live on an annotated Google Map. There are plenty of political donation databases but we want the one that you build to be more transparent than we ever could have imagined.
> Create an online community of trusted advisors. Why not tap the wisdom of crowds and invite people with knowledge of critical subjects (energy, Middle East history, religion, etc.) to join up into online communities? These people would have to pass a certain threshold to join and be accepted, but they could give more outside opinions to subjects that are often misunderstood by politicians and political operatives. While lobbyists and special interests might join up, at least the others that join will make it a more level playing field for advice.
So what do you think the new president can do? And among the remaining candidates — McCain, Huckabee, Clinton or Obama — who do you think would be most likely to do these things, if elected? Share your thoughts in the comments below or use the Feedback Form. I will then add in your best ideas to the list, with credit to you, and will keep updating it over the next few weeks. Happy President’s Day!
Photo of the presidential seal by Allesandro Abate via Flickr.