Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Possible Approach to "Tune Out" or Neutralize Money in Politics? A Small Experiment.

I'd like to throw this out as a test project, in case there are any takers, or rather for now, mostly throw it out for comment and criticism to see if it can be taken any further.  The general idea is that voters really assume the attitude that we are the hirers of our public servants, and taking the stand that, yes, they are our public servants.

Take a small town, say about 4000 pop., where people generally know each other, and can nearly all agree that the way we run elections is very dysfunctional compared to a normal hiring process. This would have to be a very unusual town for such a conversation to take place; maybe it would be a very small suburb of Redmond Washington. Liberals, libertarians, and conservatives would hold a town hall type conversation and almost all agree that the current prototype of an election is dysfunctional. They might then agree to tell the candidates "Save your money, no ads, signs, etc. We're providing a different forum for you to represent yourselves, and whoever ignores this will forfeit our respect for sabotaging the experiment we want to carry out."

Townspeople would spend a period of time, with face to face meetings and online debating forums figuring out what questions they'd want answered. Maybe a few of the sort of people who would normally become activists for one or the other party would supply the drive, looking into what was done by the town under the last mayor. Discoveries would be made like "Oh, here's one thing the mayor does that I never thought of, hiring concrete contractors; I wonder how he/she would decide which one to use."

Then candidates are interviewed one at a time in a town hall type setting with web and/or local cable broadcast. Each candidate will be called individually on one or more evenings partly to avoid time-wasting put-downs of the other candidates.

I think this would get national news attention and provoke discussion. There are plenty of stories of unusual situations in small town elections just because a man and his ex-wife are running against each other, or the (male) mayor goes trans-gender and has large breast implants (and to warm our hearts, the town chases off out of town demonstrators against such an "abomination" -- this one I actually heard about recently).

I realize the "normal hiring process" analogy has to be stretched and squeezed to fit the very different situation, but I think it's worth an experiment, at least, to see if we could capture some of the virtues of a process that has worked (and been thought out and rethought, and books written on it) that has worked well enough for private business.

What we currently do is as much like a normal hiring process as if the hirer couldn't even get the candidates into their office, but must watch them out the window performing circus-like theatrics; they don't get to ask questions, but the candidates shout out whatever they think is relevant over a bullhorn.

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