BY JOSH WOLF
Richmond Confidential Staff Writer
Adriel Hampton admits his chances of getting elected to congress are slim, but he hopes his web-centric vision of American politics will serve as a harbinger.
Like most of the candidates running in Tuesday’s special election for the 10th Congressional District, Hampton, a 31-year-old Democrat from Dublin, opposes the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He’s in favor of gay marriage, single-payer health care and is advocating for an end to the War on Drugs.
But it is Hampton’s roots in what’s been coined “Government 2.0,” that set him apart.
Government 2.0 is a movement to apply the framework of Web 2.0, — social networking, open-source software and collaborative communication — to politics and government.
“It gives us the ability to connect with each other. And to see where certain things lie and how we can come together,” said Brooklyn resident Noel Hidalgo, 31, of the New York state senate. “We traditionally would have created this one-way platform, (but) instead these online tools allow us to develop a forum-nature where we can communicate with each other as well as elected officials.”
As the Director of Technology Innovations, Hidalgo created a Web site for the state senate that allows voters to connect with their representative through phone and e-mail, but also Facebook and Twitter.
“Ten years ago a politician who didn’t know how to use e-mail wouldn’t get reelected, and pretty soon it will be the same way for social media,” said D-10 candidate Hampton. “Using Web 2.0 tools to set an agenda, to actually get more voter buy-in, to really use it for governance. I think what I’m trying to do now will become more popular.”
But Jack Pitney, 54, a Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, said Government 2.0 isn’t needed to break down the walls of communication between politicians and their constituents.
“What barrier? Anyone can e-mail members of congress now. In the days of postal mail they were attentive to postal mail,” said Pitney. “Obviously we’d all like immediate face-time with a member of Congress. That isn’t always possible. … There are many many problems with congress but I don’t think a disregard of constituent mail is one of them.”
Hampton acknowledges that it will be difficult to change the paradigm, but he said the potential for Government 2.0 goes well beyond what’s possible through phone calls or e-mail.
He is exploring using MixedInk, a web-based collaborative writing tool, to collectively write legislation with individual groups and constituents. He has also launched an interactive policy page at adriel.nationbuilder.com. Registered visitors to the site can choose to endorse or oppose the priorities that are already listed, or they can add their own agenda.
“A more transparent process would be pretty cool. You’d actually see who had their fingers in the legislation. … Sierra Club wants to mark up my legislation. I’m going to have the final say and everybody is going to see,” said Hampton. “I don’t think congress is going to embrace that. I think that you’re not going to change the status quo by just pushing on the status quo.”
But if Hampton’s ideas for Government 2.0 are liable to challenge the status quo, then a victory by Mark Loos, 46, a Republican candidate from Livermore, could be seen as a declaration of war.
Loos promises to vote the will of his constituents on everything that crosses his desk. He said he plans set up a secure Web site with a list of all the bills and allow every registered voter in his district to have an account.
“However this district wants this question answered, that will be the way I vote. … If the voters are really interested in the process they need to have some sort of benefit to read the bill. That’s why I like putting the teeth in it,” said Loos. “If I (have) to call every voter to get them involved, that’s what I’m going to do, literally.”
But Pitney insists nothing will ever replicate a New England Town Hall Democracy.
“I don’t see anyway that you could return to those days,” said Pitney. “I think the Internet is a wonderful tool. I spend most of my day online, but it does not represent a recreation of human nature.”