Sunday, November 1, 2015

Civic Hacking: Fixing A Corrupted Democracy

Question:  “Does America have a government where someone who is not a billionaire or a major political figure can run as a Republican or Democratic candidate for national office?”

Based on the 2016 presidential race, it appears the answer to the above question is, “An American can’t participate in mainstream national politics if they’re not incredibly wealthy or incredibly well-connected in business and politics.

Lawrence Lessig: A Corrupted Democracy
In light of the above question and answer, I think both active and potential civic hackers in NE Wisconsin should consider spending time and energy on fixing a corrupted democracy.

The way I see it, the reasons for calling America a corrupted democracy are that:

  • People allowed to seriously run for national office aren’t chosen by voters. They’re chosen by the large funders of campaigns because those funders determine who is allowed into the Republican and Democratic party campaigns, (discussed starting at 8:35 in the “Fixing The Republic” video below).
  • National legislation isn’t affected by the opinions of voters. It’s only affected by opinions of large funders, (discussed starting at 10:30 in the “Fixing The Republic” video below)
  • Congress has defined the borders of congressional districts to maximize the number of ‘safe’ seats for Democrats and Republicans. Of the 435 seats in Congress, 345 are considered safe, meaning the next congressperson elected for that seat will almost certainly be from the same party as the current congressperson. This is called gerrymandering, and its only purpose is to help national politicians be re-elected. Both parties do it, and both parties want to continue to do it, (discussed starting at 16:00 in the “Fixing The Republic” video below).

Lawrence Lessig has launched a presidential campaign for the American 2016 elections. In the October 24, 2015, video below, “Fixing The Republic,” he explains his campaign platform, which features the goal to pass the Citizen Equality Act of 2017 as soon as possible after the elections (on the first day after inauguration or, at most, within a couple weeks.)

As of October 2015, Lawrence Lessig is trying to campaign for becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. The Democratic party is not allowing him to participate in the Democratic presidential debates, the American mainstream media is not providing press coverage as a Democratic candidate, and the (mainstream?) political polls are not including him as a Democratic candidate.

The October 20, 2015, video below, “Why Is The Democratic Party Afraid Of Larry Lessig?” discusses reasons he hasn’t been allowed to participate in Democratic presidential debates and why mainstream media and polls are not covering him.

If you watch the two videos above and agree with Lessig’s description of America as a corrupted democracy, you might be interested in how you can help get rid of that corruption. One way is to be a civic hacker working on the issues Lessig is focused on.

The purpose of this blog post is to encourage NE Wisconsin civic hackers to spend time and energy reducing American national politics corruption. NE Wisconsin civic hackers are invited to gather on November 17, 2015 at 7 PM at Bazil’s Pub at 109 W. College Avenue in downtown Appleton to discuss potential civic hacks to work on in upcoming weeks and months. I feel one worthwhile focus area is politics, with an initial civic hack project to address reducing American national politics corruption.

As I see it, listed below are the challenges to Lawrence Lessig becoming a recognized Democratic candidate, to him becoming elected, and to greatly reducing corruption in American national politics.

  1. Most of America doesn’t know who Lawrence Lessig is.
  2. Most of America doesn’t know what Lawrence Lessig’s campaign platform is.
  3. The DNC will not allow Lawrence Lessig to participate in the 2016 Democratic debates.
  4. American mainstream media will not provide coverage for the 2016 Lessig campaign.
  5. Most American citizens think the national political system is corrupt and should be changed.
  6. Most American citizens think the national political system can’t or won’t be changed.
  7. American national politicians have huge incentives to keep the corrupted national political system.

I agree with Lawrence Lessig that public funding of elections and elimination of gerrymandering must be done before other important national problems can be fixed. Civic hacking is often described as using a 21st century toolbox to fix problems you see in government. As Catherine Bracy says in her TED video, “It’s the idea that if you see a problem, you work to fix it, and not just complain about it.” Working to get rid of corruption in American national politics is unquestionably civic hacking.

If you want to know more about Lawrence Lessig’s fight against corruption in American national politics, check out his presidential campaign website and consider working on civic hacks that help combat the causes of that corruption.

If you live in NE Wisconsin and want to discuss what civic hacks we should work together on next, either political or nonpolitical, come to Bazil’s Pub in Appleton at 7 PM on Tuesday, November 17th. Hope to see you then!


For more info about civic hacks related to voting, see:

Part 1: Civic Hacks For Better Voting
Voting Hacks Part 2: New Voting App for Appleton
Voting Hacks Part 3: Examples of Civic Hacks For Better Voting

For ideas about civic hack topics not related to voting, see:

Seed Projects For Civic Hackathons
Civic Hacking To Help Those In Need
DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015: Top 10 Hacks
Ideation Session For Non-Code-Focused Civic Hackers


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