Free Agents and Government
Posted by Allison Fine on June 14, 2010
In California’s primary elections last week voters took a bold step of wiping out over a century of practice and abolished party primaries. Proposition 14 received 54% of the popular vote. It creates open primaries for anyone of any party to enter. The top two winners go on to the November ballot.
Here is Governor Schwarzenneger’s victory lap about the passage of Proposition 14:
It is one of many signs of the demise of our political parties. Not the demise of the two party system and the rise of the long-awaited third party, but the demise of all political parties. And not just here in the United States but around the globe. As the results of a Gallup poll in 2009 highlighted, much as made of the shift in allegiance from Republicans to Democrats over the past ten years; however, what these data don’t often emphasize is that independents now make up a larger slice of the whole electorate pie than either party.
This is the rise of the political free agent. In our book, The Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter and I discuss the critical importance of free agent activists. These are individuals working outside of institutions who are facile with social media and passionate about their causes. Organizations need to work with them to achieve large-scale social change.
Although the ground has similar shifted in the political arena, far less attention has been paid to the affect on governance of free agents being elected. We’ve watched as more voters have become free agents, freed from party loyalty to vote across parties. Obama was supported by a significant percentage of Independents and Republicans. This lack of party loyalty has also been one cause of the backlash against incumbents and the volatility in the support of party leaders over the past few years.Voters who supported Obama specifically because of his stance on the Iraq war or health care may not be supportive when the curveballs of governance, like an oil spill he didn’t create and can’t stop, emerge. These free agent voters give and take away their support when and how they want to, now because a party or association like a union tell them to.
But, what about the free agent politicians who become lawmakers? If you thought government didn’t work and politicians were in the pocket of the highest bidder, how is that going to be any better when politicians are unleashed from even the appearance of party fealty?
A new construct of post partisan participation for citizens has to be created. The Sunlight Foundation is at the forefront of this movement. Mechanisms for holding lawmakers accountable to the public through transparent data is one need. And above all we need an educated citizenry fully engaged in public policy and able to use the social media toolkit to gather support or build opposition to policies.
This entry was posted on June 14, 2010 at 10:54 am and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: California, free agents, political parties, Proposition 14, sunlight foundation, The Networked Nonprofit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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