Dreaming of a post-party future
Fixing politics, one issue at a time…
Full disclosure, I’m a Millennial. I believe strongly in addressing climate change with stronger environmental initiatives, but I don’t care if that means carbon tax credits, stronger emissions standards, big investments in alternative energy sources or all of the above. I also deeply care about LGBTQ rights for personal reasons and because I believe that the equality of all people (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual preference, and/or age) is fundamental. I’m not onboard with socialism, and I’m also not sold that market-based solutions are actually the solution to many of our world’s current ills. Education is too expensive. We have too much national debt, and it seems to be that this could be solved by a combination of smarter spending and a fairer, more progressive tax system.
Tell me what political party will champion my views? I’m tired of the two party system, and I don’t think adding a third, fourth or fifth party to the mix will actually help. Choosing from the lesser of five evils is only slightly better than the lesser of two evils. This is why I think micro-parties could be the future of politics and our platform we the peeps can power this revolution.
Why Political Parties Exist (IMHO):
Political parties serve as a useful heuristic. While Washington, Hamilton, and Madison all opposed political parties, Jefferson said “Men [sic] by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties.” As of this moment in U.S. history, Jefferson has been pretty much right.
We, as a society, love the binary choice: Good vs. evil, heaven vs. hell, Democrats vs. Republicans, Seinfeld vs. Friends, Republicans vs. Democrats, Ali vs. Frasier, Kanye vs. T. Swift. It’s incredibly easy to organize your world-view into two camps. We live busy lives and don’t have a ton of extra time. We don’t want to expend energy on parsing through a highly nuanced, increasingly complicated world with complex actors. When you’re working 996 and have some Netflix to get through, it’s hard to stay an expert on every issue. So parties form a policy platform oriented around some theoretically coherent larger world view, and the rest of us can take a shortcut.
The other legitimate reason for political parties to exist was coordinating resources. You expend a lot of energy in getting people, who support your broad set of priorities, into positions of power where they can make those priorities a reality. The DNC, RNC, and the various other party organizations provide a place where people: 1) pool resources (people power + money) and 2) decide to allocate those resources in a smart way to accomplish their goals (e.g. getting those who mostly support their platform into power). In the past, coordinating masses of people to act in concert across a state or country has been a pretty massive undertaking. Getting people elected required lot of resources, connections, and professional coordination.
There’s nothing patently offensive about this system. Sure it probably doesn’t represent your mix of priorities very well, but it does make decisions in the ballot box easier.
The real danger is when political parties start using their money and resources to preserve their own power, and the power of their incumbents, for the pure sake of it. A couple months ago, the Democratic Party announced that its House congressional campaign wing, the DCCC (full disclosure: I briefly worked there long ago), would not hire consultants who worked for primary challengers. For consultants this means a major potential client might not hire you if you help an upstart primary challenger. For primary challengers this means that you might not have access to top talent for your insurgent campaign. For voters this results in you not getting the best representation in Congress you could get. And that’s when political parties become a real problem.
But the Internet, Really…
The internet did a lot of things. Some good, some bad, but one thing it did especially well was connect people with the same beliefs or interests, regardless of location, and allow them to communicate and coordinate seamlessly, cheaply, and easily.
So why can’t we do this for politics? We could use this amazing tool called the internet to find all of the other people who have overlapping beliefs. I can find all of the other environmental warriors out there, but can also find those who think we should reduce the national debt via smarter spending and fairer taxes. I can also find those who support LGBTQ rights and those who think “college tuition is too damn high!” These don’t all have to be the same groups of people, either. It could be one group, two, or even a different group for each set of issues. Those groups of people can get together, coordinate, pool resources and talent.
Groups of people organized around shared political issues and causes do exist on Twitter and Facebook. The groups are usually loose networks of Twitter warriors and Facebook groups that discuss issues and share opinions. Still, cutting through the noise to find the like-minds is hard and making sure your voice is amplified in such a way that it’s heard by politicians proves even harder.
Now Sprinkle Some Blockchain On it.
People just coming together around issues or causes isn’t quite enough. To be effective, these groups of people need to be able to do something. And for groups of people to do anything meaningful, it means that group has to coordinate and then make decisions. At Peeps Democracy, we’re really focused on addressing this problem of coordination and decision-making in distributed groups and networks.
We think that by giving groups of people with a shared purpose, say saving our national parks, a secure, transparent, and structured way of making decisions around who and what deserves their money and time will do two incredibly powerful things: first, it turns a group of people into a community of action, and second, it means that community can rely on the knowledge of the crowd and empower its members in a way that increases engagement.
When applied to politics, like with we the peeps, this can turn ordinary people into micro-political parties with the power to reward politicians who champion certain issues and may even get politicians to compete to be the best representatives they can be. In the we the peeps future, politicians will be rewarded for acting as champions for issues and causes that matter to ordinary people. That’s real power, now wielded democratically, for the people and by the people.
Perfection is the enemy of great:
This new system won’t be perfect. For example, what do you do with the environmental warriors who are willing to run up the national debt in order to meet the Paris Agreement Climate Goals? In this case, I have to determine which value is more important to me and decide whether a candidate’s apathy toward national debt is a dealbreaker. In any case, unless those two candidates are running against each other for the same office in my district, I could support both with my money, time and energy and allocate those resources appropriately. What about a national debt / fairer tax system crusader who turns out to be anti-LGBTQ rights? Same decision, but in this case, I probably wouldn’t support that anti-LGBTQ, fair taxes crusader at all, because I have priorities and then I have a few things that I feel are pretty fundamental.
Again, this is why with we the peeps we want people to organize around the issues or causes that matter, and pick who is worthy of receiving money, time, and effort. Once the people choose, each individual is given the chance either to accept the compromise (assuming they don’t love all of the politicians chosen) or go start their own alternative community. It’s a beginning, not a perfect solution and not an end.
We launch soon, so if you’re interested in updates or want to sign up to start fixing politics, you can do so at www.wethepeeps.us.