Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Virtual Congress?

Listening to my NPR podcasts while tillin' the garden. (Laugh if you will, but I am not kidding). One discussion turned to the concept of e-Government, and I found myself left with a few questions.

Why, in this day and age, would a Congressional representative ever need to miss a vote? This can't be set up to be done remotely through an online interface, leaving said rep. with more time at home for constituent interaction? Ahhh, that's where it all falls down, methinks. Is it that real interaction takes much more time, and is endlessly less pleasant than lunch with lobbyists who "speak for the people"?

Recently in the UK, the Parliament posted a very controversial measure on police practice on a state sponsored webpage, with comments allowed. Citizens were given the opportunity to weigh in on the actual language of the bill before their local rep. took it off to the city for voting. Why haven't we seen such steps taken by our own elected officials? Are they afraid us, or do they just fear debate? (Incidentally, Chris Cannon still moderates comments on his blog).

The resources and know-how to create such an interactive "virtual" Congress, and to facilitate the procedures of the House and Senate in such a way as to allow representatives more time with their own constituency, rather than quality time commuting to and from DC exists. But it isn't being implemented. In NYC, they have a number to dial to get any/all questions about legislation or representatives answered. When residents call in, they reach a call center employee with internet access and links to state webpages. Why not just further promote the webpages themselves and save a buck or two?

Has there been no push has been made so far to bring our legislative branch into the 21st century, or are such attempts being organized, then downplayed or even actively campaigned against by the same elected officials who would be effected by it?

And if it's the later, is it the fear of open government that may be a side effect of such changes that these people fear, or is it simply that they would prefer to interact with those who've voted for them as little as possible?

Just a little food for thought. Back to the garden now...


  1. It would make sense, although the lack a requirement to actually show up would allow our representatives to serve until they were 105 years old, instead of merely 90 years old or so, as it is now.

  2. It would make no sense.

    #1, it would mean no Representative would have to interact. It is easier to yell and scream at or about people you don't know. (Jason proves this everyday on this blog).

    #2, it would mean you would have their staff voting.

    #3, it would just be wrong. Our Republic was built by people in a room, compromising, arguing passionately, and fighting.

    Jason, enough with the Cannon blog whine, please. Your free speech rights aren't being violated, as this blog proves, rightfully, daily. I love your blog, but it does get a bit "victimy" sometimes.

  3. For a communications director, Fred sure misses the point of new technology, huh folks?

    And isn't your supposition that the arguing and fighting are key to the Republic a direct contradiction for how you choose to manage the Congressman's blog?

    Just sayin'.

  4. I'd be willing to bet "anonymous" works inside the current system, and that is why his/her words are so defensive.

    The old school feels threatened by the new school.

    Simple matter of point, a "virtual congress" would allow Congresspeople to interact more with their constituents, not lobbyists. They would hate that, and that is why this will never happen.

    It would be great if it did, but it won't.