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Obama Agonistes

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Obama Agonistes
From Campaigning to Governing, The Struggle to Open Up Politics
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In 2008, Barack Obama rode a wave of mass political participation to become the first African-American President in the United States. His campaign was widely described as a model for integrating bottom-up grassroots support–online and offline–with traditional top-down marketing. And his administration promised to transform government by making it more open, participatory and collaborative. How much has Obama delivered on these promises? And how much did he really change American politics? In this talk, Micah Sifry, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum and editor of techPresident.com will look at the myths, and realities, of Obama the candidate and president.
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I suppose I should give people a moment's is settled and competing with lunch I can tell so it's very good to be here in Berlin and now I'm looking forward to this conversation with your we will we will have some time for conversation but I titles are talking about my belief the agonizing over Obama and I should start by saying I heard a rumor that last year by year Republican there was a kind of like a drinking game any time and it's someone uses of the word Obama that they had to put 5 euros down because it was the buzz words so I'm just gonna put all my tests I'll try not to use it too often I admit it suggests that we the in thinking about Obama that this is really a play in 3 parts and we don't know yet whether it's a comedy and tragedy or forests or maybe it's a combination of all 3 because we're in the middle only of the 2nd act uh and it's either about changes the status quo and we're not really sure yet I wanna talk about Obama and the internet as a case study in this question of whether the Internet really empowers anyone as a case study in in the problem of empowerment and democracy and whether the Internet is actually changing politics the 1st I wanna ask the audience but how many of you came to hear Obama in Berlin the summer of 2008 and you just raise actually a few OK not that as many as they perhaps I how do you how do you feel that about that experience it was exciting it was a moment do you still feel the same way does anybody still feel the same way at that 1 him well you're not alone I think the same question is troubling lots of us Americans and part of the questions that were wrestling with is added this this fantastic grassroots organizing campaign that made brilliant use of the Internet produce the very people who championed the deregulation of all street Larry Summers Timothy guys there are put in charge of economic policy but President Obama till at 1 let's go back to the beginning
and 1st look at at the the the positive side of of what Obama represented hope and change how did we get here 1st I think we need
to recognize that we are in a new age this is the age of mass participation in politics no longer to people just participate by voting at the end of the process we now have the ability to create our own messages to raise money to organize to but I do are alone kinds of field work but if the power to run a campaign is no longer in the hands of the consultants in the headquarters this is a map for example of all the house parties that were registered on Barack Obama's website a few weeks before the election these were people gathering but to organize themselves to get out the vote to knock on their neighbors stores and when you see a great logic really is quite amazing of I think
it's important remember how the 2008 presidential campaign started when the internet 1st entered into the dialog when people realized that there was a new force that voter generated content that voted generated activism thank you was going to be a new element in this campaign and we see and I'm sure you've all you will remember this video we have the
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what and whom you know whether the vote different video the Hillary 1984 mashup came out and the person who made it originally kept state anonymous and attack President we're actually 1 of the only blogs that was the even able to get a comment out of him but turns out he was a young Democratic political consultant who was supporting Obama and when he came forward he said I made the vote different ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process this shows that the future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens this said was not the 1st citizen and it will not be the last of the game has changed and what's no I don't wanna and that again and indeed the game is changing but there is no longer a the ability of politicians to just relies on expensive top-down broadcast media as their way to it essentially forced themselves on the public and that these lateral connections between citizens the the network effect is becoming as important in politics as the top-down management politics is a picture for example of a group of Obama activists in was Angeles who and at the meeting together across several different neighborhoods and and what those uh strings are was an exercise where they ask people to a visibly show the links that they had to each other how they knew other people in the room the point is that you actually demonstrate visually the lateral networking the power that happens when citizens are connected to each other and can talk together about what they want and not just up to talk to a politician or be talked at from a politician and they're obviously this isn't the only thing that happened in 2008 and I think it would be a mistake to forget how important a charismatic messenger with a resident message can also be but I like to say sometimes that the most important political organizer in the United States but in 2007 and 2008 was actually not Barack Obama was George W. Bush because he made so many people so angry and so fed up that they organize themselves they got up off their own couches and they went looking for some way to be sure that they would throw him and any other Republican successor out of office um so don't we we can forget it isn't just the technology it's also the messenger and the message now that the context obviously is a situation now where just about everybody is online in the US this chart is from 2008 and the main reason I put it up is not just to tell you that it's young people we all know that but even among people over the age of 65 more than half are online and between 2004 and 2008 the number of older people in that age group of getting online increased substantially and maybe some of this is grandparents who 1 escaped with their grandchildren but the point is that even the last group in in US that that has been lagging behind in terms of Internet access which is older people even them it is isn't just that they're getting online again it's participation its commenting it's people posting their own content sharing content with each other creating a social network profile of reading and commenting on blogs and this phenomenon is the networked public sphere come to life and and so we are in effect in the US and I'm sure here in Europe swimming in an ocean of user-generated content just to give 1 for an example if you look at all the videos that were made by the Obama and McCain campaigns in 2008 that were posted online compared to the total number of views of videos but made by voters mentioning Obama McCain just 10 per cent of the views were of videos made by the campaigns 1 . 5 billion in total 90 per cent of those videos being viewed were not made by the campaigns this is the devoted generated content see that were swimming in and it
really bears repeating but before we go into a critique of what this all meant but just how substantial Obama's achievement was but at the end of the day his campaign amassed 13 million e-mail addresses of supporters that is to say roughly 1 out of every 5 votes that he got got about 65 million votes but he had nearly 4 million individual donors to his campaign 2 million people created a
profile on on the campaign social network site my both my Barack BarackObama . com that site but was the platform for activists generating 200 thousand local events where they registered the event on the site and 70 thousand people created their own fund-raising page for Obama which raised by it somewhere in the range of 40 million dollars but this is user-generated bottom-up fund-raising and thousands of local groups created and ultimately a record amount of money raised 750 million dollars which is a huge number just to give you a sense that's more then Bush and kerry raised in 2004 combined OK Obama had doubled the number of donors of either Bush or Kerry in 2004 and then two-thirds of this money was raised online I put up this facebook chart Obama now has more than 8 million friends on facebook it's continue to climb even even after the election so the question is at 1st I just need to make this point uh because we forget that were it not for for all of this internet PowerEdge organizing that enabled Obama to create his own kind of alternative political power base in all likelihood Hillary Clinton would currently be the president of the United States she was the front-runner in the Democratic primary she had the high
poll numbers she had all the establishment of supporters he had a fantastic fund-raising base from her husband's years in office but she had many of the local party officials endorsing her that is conventionally all the ways that you win the nomination of your party and 2008 was a change election the odds of the Republicans holding on to the White House were not very good so I would argue that were it not for the Internet enabling Obama to create this alternative power base and some mistakes that the Clinton campaign made about how they conducted where they put their priorities in terms of primaries Hillary Clinton would be the president now I and this gets to the question I really wanted to get into with you who
exactly was in power by all of this grassroots organizing by Obama and and the 1st thing I wanna start with it's a little poignant to remember what election I was like in the United States and but I I just want to convey a little bit of that for you this is the scene outside the White House on election nite after broke obama has been declared the winner and its 3 in the morning OK the time and there and and you know and would be you it will have that you and on the on all and what think and and the and in and yes I think the the
thing and the government the the following and so on and so and if so want to we I think the thing and the 2nd you and and kind of and the a the and and I
think that the so the you and in this the and we and the and the the In the 2nd half of the thank you for your really you in the time and you and I and the me and it without a lot of the OK now
until back to and by the way 1 just 1 comment about that video it's 1 of hundreds that you can find the new to the people uploaded from cities all over the United States and the scene is repeated everywhere but not only that there are and numerous examples of spontaneous crowds of singing the Star-Spangled Banner and other national hymns thousands of people in the street this is never happened in the United States in my lifetime and I don't know if ever so something very deep was perhaps
especially among young people as you could see a and so well it's easy the kind of go yeah All politicians ultimately lies manipulate them that kind of popular of uprising up swelling of emotion I don't know what to call it is and the sort of thing that I think all small the Democrats should care very deeply about when you raise people's hopes and you mobilize them that's a good thing 1 and so while I think a lot of what Obama did was a mess in terms of not really empowering is based its the usefulness some because when people are hopeful they demand more change they expect more and so I'm very reluctant to give in to cynicism or worse that this kind of stuff this is from the tea party movement by the way it's 1 of the user-generated signs that cropped up starting sometime last year uh some modest mated as his statement and now you see things like this and many of the in the Obama rallies I could show you much worse I suspect there would be violating some of the laws in Germany actually if I were to try and show you some of the pictures comparing Obama to the Nazis so what happens the math was that the campaign was all about you this is the home page of the brock obama website and the invitation to get involved to use their organizing tools
and we were sold this story again and again uh both during the campaign and afterwards that the people with the organization that this is Chris use on the cover of Fast Company magazine Chris was 1 of the founders of Facebook who left Facebook to go volunteer very early in building Obama's online network so after the campaign he did good he got uncover
Company Jurassic cars but who was 1 of the veterans of the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 that was the 1st to really tap the potential of all this bottom-up energy that ran the online the entire media operations the Obama campaign curious quoted after the fact it was going to be something organic it was going to be up
and Rolling Stone gave lots of promising about positive attention and here's algol campaign manager saying Obama didn't just take the money he gave them seats the table allowed them to become players talking about the grassroots again and
finally David plus the campaign manager who really ran the operation and he profile by Esquire magazine Obama on the web because + believed in a few smart kids and let them go a little nuts we will come back to plus actual role the
little better but the 1st thing is to bring some facts the conversation and the 1st factor is that this was not of a revolution of grass-roots donors grassroots activists taking control of of a presidential campaign in in the United States but money is still the determining factor for your viability and politics and we have something that is colloquially referred to as the wealth primary which takes place the year before anybody votes and in the wealth primarily out what all the presidential candidates are trying to do is demonstrated by the fund-raising how strong they are and typically the way they do that is they raise as much money as fast as they can from as many wealthy donors as they can find and we have a limit on how much they can give the maximum is about 20 300 dollars per donor per candidate and and so when we talk about big donors and small donors in the US a big donor is someone who is maxing out of giving 2 thousand or more and a small donors typically under 200 dollars but that's partly because of how the reporting system works if you get under 200 you actually don't even need to give your personal information the campaign doesn't is not required to just disclose that but in the early money into in the 2008 election which is to say money donated in 2007 but that in fact Obama got up more from the financial sector that Hillary Clinton 36 per cent to her about 28 in terms of people giving
in thousand dollar amounts for more in the early months Obama 60 per cent of his money coming from thousand dollar donors OK so a little less than Hillary Clinton and but still a very significant amount and if you compare
Obama's money between Oct 2008 and the last cycle 2004 and then uh but look at the % from large donors yes it's true he is the 1st presidential K president in fact candidate to win the presidency with slightly less than half of his money from the big donors but if you look at his profile compared to say Howard Dean Howard Dean was substantially got more of his money from small donors that was not the case for Obama so what really happens to this
movement and how were they use now I'm going to
play you a little bit of Obama and his best case here is Obama talking about the grassroots movement and how he saw it as continuing into his presidency as something that might be a powerful force for for genuine change 1 of the things I'm really proud of about this campaign is I think we build a structure that can sustain itself after the conflict because of people wanna have had had this guy like when all the states so clearly we might all have awarded points it was because volunteers got together and they will adopt the gambling that goes together we weren't even made in Idaho whatsoever you have a call from somewhere so you're right or organizing concerned stop by sometime so we didn't have originally been a big landslide but people may made the structure so now we get our database is that the has got million people on of who whom are activated inspired and there they know each other they're communicating with each other through his don't them to do the internet and that there are all kinds of different groups and so what I wanna process to continue that after the elections the number 1 would keep on the internal meetings I want keep on having conversations like this were listening to voters have and how I really open not that transparency so you guys know on a day-to-day basis for what happens in the knowledge of a revamp or or the White House website or whatever I'm not handles most virtual tour the China Room analysis but I don't want people to be able lot today this issues on what today that issues wanted to personal Mama talked about his proposal for 4 thousand tuition prosperous during every year but it's going to be going into this congressional committee these are the key leaders of the House and the cells were going to be deciding on the bill so here the groups that supported don't you should contact your congressman you should let just creating the kind of situation where people if they wanna get out all they have the information whatever it is it's not a information about the right now but you try to track it down and find 1 is place that's a cabinet cabinet members come up and you jump all the was last Sunday where you have any idea who it is not what the Secretary of Health and Human Services was planning in terms of public health services or our right that they just don't get out of Washington to some about them and then let them be visible and what the was the paper also inspected which is the more of we and was the American people to pay attention and be involved that's the only will remove agenda for that OK skip the rest is more of the same and and that's good by the way I love the theories that continue the movement which is built by volunteers make government more transparent and this is the only way but to defeat the special interest to defeat the entrenched interests now I think that's Obama that his best actually as he says a structure that can sustain itself now here's some David
plus the man who actually built and manage that structure talking in his book after he took a year off after the election 10 we reunite with his family and write a book which he's made a lot of money from and he says in the book that our e-mail list had reached 13 million people we had essentially created our own television network only better because we communicated with no filter to what would amount to about 20 per cent of the total number of votes we would need to win and those supporters which error message or respond to attacks and so on and so forth we essentially
created are all television network only better now I mean boiling down a great deal of what + has to say about the role of the grass roots in the Internet in the campaign and so in fairness to him you can go read his book and it's a tiny bit more nuanced than this over the course of the campaign they did slowly learn to give to share a little bit of autonomy with their base but they never shared power this was in his view 13 million e-mail addresses is like a television network only better because you can go without a filter directly 2 people the mistake that he made and that was continued after the election it is to keep treating the Obama based those incredibly motivated kids for example as people you just talk acts and not talk with and they made that mistake because once they can got into Washington they chose much more of a conventional inside the beltway approach to getting things done as opposed to what Obama talked about which is I need the people to come with me because only and engaged mass mobilize citizenry watching and participating in what in what Washington does every day can defeat the entrenched lobbies who were here but now what about changing how Washington works right we heard a lot about transparency is a lot of other talks going on today in fact about open government which I'm sure partly inspired by Obama's language and and efforts in the Open Government arena I and indeed on the 1st day of his administration he signed a executive order which we all thought was great calling on government to become more open participatory and collaborative and that is set in motion the whole process called the Open Government initiatives and I should mention I do a lot of work with the Sunlight Foundation and have been very very involved in the deeply in participating in trying to affect that process for the good and there is some good stuff going on here but we need to pay close attention to what actually is a is
happening so early in the administration Obama of they date experimented with using the Web to enable the public to ask him questions and then he would answer the ones that bubble to the top of the 1st time they did this but was called open for questions they use Google moderator is the interface which enables you to know the real question and then vote whether you like it or not and nearly 100 thousand people participated there was very little promotion of this and yet they got a fairly high level of participation Obama then head of event at the White House where he answered some of the top questions it was supposed to questions were supposed to be on the economy and very interestingly 1 of the top questions in a few categories was about legalizing marijuana and taxing it as a way to raise revenue and I should mention that the marijuana legalization people in the United States are generally left by the establishment they're considered to be hippies and that it's not a serious issue and so instead of it even though 40 to 45 per cent of Americans support legalization or at least the criminalization of there last thing Obama wanted you was to show any respect to that group and so even though they took advantage of an open platform and try to push the questions are of the last thing he wanted to do was show any respect to that kind of citizen behavior and in the actual event where he was entering the top questions he said yes I know of a B O blood people think we should there but you know legalized marijuana as a way to raise revenue well let's not how I'm going to handle the economy ha ha ha those Internet people half and it was and was a little bit of a telling moment but they initiated something called the Open Government Dialogue which played out over the course of of the 1st 6 months of his administration and they asked set up a site to ask people how can we strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness by making government more transparent participatory and collaborative and again open platforms at this
point that the tea party movement is beginning to a big build up steam as a new kind of grass-roots movement in opposition to Obama and there are a lot of crazy people in that movement for example who don't believe he was even born in the United States we call them the Bertha's if if he wasn't born in the US and he's not legitimately president so they are demanding his birth certificate so they jump onto this site the top of a loaded question on this site was about getting his birth certificate and well that's government transparency right but it is it's this is a sign of a breakdown in the
connection but 0 all about 4 thousand people submitted ideas in the Open Government dialog but the best
kinds of things that have come out in terms of making government more open will make all the geeks here very happy but we do have a central government website for Open Data and it's not just opened its structured it's downloadable it's free and and there are a lot of really cool datasets of that are beginning to get released such is uh villages destroyed and . 4 or the code of Figure of federal regulations in XML and sure somebody here things that's great I the airport you know flight delay information but that's all wonderful stuff and you can even not
only use the data but people who are using it can comments and vote on its quality and so this is you know at its best a new kind of open participatory collaborative government so I wanna point out the vote numbers aren't all that high and they even
have a blog where they're asking the public to keep helping them improve the of the of the data . gov site but they're using the idea scale for the for that conversation
and even more interesting things are being developed if you go to the State Department site there's this interactive bot tool called opinion space where you can register yourself and identify yourself with a few sliders where you stand on a few international issues and then propose ideas Secretary Clinton and then see where you are situated in the opinion space compared to other people it's so I can be it's it's a fun site to play with I have no idea how those ideas are actually going to influence the Secretary of State but at least Obama but with his Open Government Initiative has created space for people inside government and rounded it to try new things to try blurring the boundary between the bureaucracy and the public and making the of some open doorways for information move back and forth and that is definitely an improvement over what we had for the last 8 years but the response of the general public to all of this the no response this is deeply the key quantity stuff now here's what we're stuck
with no um Obama is become I think quite conventional the rhetoric during the campaign was all about the world in it together and but we he was the word and some of us thought that he was the 1st internet candidate because he understood that the language of the Internet is also about we and but here's a word cloud for example of him from just a few months ago at the peak of the fight for health care reform and the main word Obama is using his eyes I will fight for you I ran for office to do these things I had no illusions when I took on health care I took this up because I want to ease the burden blood levels not we not and by the way for a president promised the transparent accountable process that this signal decisions on the fight over health care reform were made behind closed doors and were basically secret deals with parts of the health care industry that the White House wanted the by so very early on they made a deal with the pharmaceutical industry to not have to basically break a campaign promise and not try to lower prices by allowing cheaper competitive us safer drugs to be imported from Canada this is how what we pay Americans pay much more for pharmaceutical drugs then of Canadians and you you have seniors who literally get on busses and go
north to buy the drugs and then come back and and early on about 1 made a deal in secret which later was reported when the lobbyist for the for pharmaceutical lobby actually wanted to make sure that it was known that this deal was made so Obama couldn't pull out and then he also made a similar deal with the hospital lobby and that's part of why they never were serious about what we call the public option the idea that there would be a government and health insurance options alongside the private insurance options these were done in secret so much for transparency so much for participation so much for collaboration so when an with this question what happens to us and I think that the real hard facts here it is that we made a big mistake in investing too much hope in Obama and not enough in ourselves and the Internet doesn't power anybody we empower ourselves and the the thank you the uh and the the notion that but it happens on its own is a lie but then I think the
mistake that so many Obama supporters made when they decided to give him a 50 dollar or hundred dollar check is they didn't demand the promise return and the tools themselves don't have any but the ability to do that right what I would like to suggest to us in the next time this happens is that we act collectively with as much sense and and power is all the entrenched interests do which is to say but we demand something in return that we can hold accountable and we make our our support conditional but because once you make it unconditional they treat you like well you know you're usable and I think a lot of people made a mistake the 2nd piece is but that the many-to-many conversations the connections between the citizens that's where the real power is that's really hard to organize and I don't think we have good enough tools I don't think that the existing platforms that we use whether it's e-mail or somewhat more sophisticated tools like idea scalar Google moderator really allow for lateral communication and the depth of connection and thinking to develop and so to the tool makers but I think you have a mandate to keep working on better tools for group collaboration and to enable stronger networks that are less easily manipulated from above the bottom line is if we're going to empower ourselves
we do need better tools and we do need clearer thinking let's hope that this past experience is not just something that made this solution of somewhat but instead be a lesson for the next time let's keep the conversation going
but you're all invited to Personal Democracy Forum in New York which is but now in our 7th year um it's june 3rd and 4th in New York City and if you wanna register will give you a
discount 50 dollars if you use this code for Republican and that's it I look forward to your questions in your comments thank you thank you get the log OK yeah I'm such many questions wanted so is possible to be effective as a US President resolving other kind of thinking to be greater corroborative really and and fight against all the obvious yeah I I think absolutely I mean I think that the potential here is to grass that we that the medium that we live in a new kind of medium space okay so that Franklin dell'arte Gelimer Roosevelt nested radio it was the the 1st mass broadcast medium and he did these fireside chats during the depression and established a personal connection with the public and and kind of help people understand where he was trying to take the country with the new and JFK was the master of television and we've been living for 40 years under television driven politics which is to say it's all about the the ability to be a message from 1 person to millions of people and to buy Y the means of doing that OK the Internet is now multi-way medium what we are beginning to see from below and a little bit from above is that there is power in the crowd but there is wisdom in the crowd and that we can make in the case of the public space specific space the government space that we can actually make all of those things work better if we open up if we listen if we share information rather than control and imports so I think we're in the beginning of a very big transition and the pressure to make these changes is coming from all sides and so but the good news is that it is becoming a little bit harder for the entrenched interests but to sustain their authority when it's possible for anybody to leak information to WikiLeaks or or you know for and in turn to challenge the authority of the CEO because you know they have access to the same information inside there's so many ways that the old order is under challenge and so I'm an optimist I think yes the answer is actually yes the yeah and test and I have 2 questions 1st 1st of all where you see bomb on and 2012 like is he going to filter or being able to tap into what he had for some and secondly i don't you think that the whole parliamentarian and presidential system the way it is right now is just not working and the enable people because then you would have to become a moderator because of instead of being helpful this well actress 1st of all I think in 2012 the Obama um it is in very good shape because of the Republican party hasn't renovated itself so unfortunately in America you know you only have 2 choices and and so the easiest way for him to get reelected will just be the point whoever his opponent that you know that Republicans need to go through a process at least similar to what the Conservatives in Britain have done so you know I mean say whatever else you might say that David Cameron that at least on issues like gay marriage a or the global warming he's basically said OK you know where we no longer believe those stupid things we used to believe where's the Republican party right now is being driven if anything further to the right by this very angry paranoid kind of basic it's not more than 20 25 per cent of the population but it's enough to make someone like Sarah Palin the front runner for 2012 and an election between Barack Obama appeal and he will win hands down not necessarily because of this kind of mass mobilization for him but because the alternative is so much worse so I I I don't see really initial you remember that remind your 2nd question out well that's a whole other topic I mean whether it makes sense for us to imagine that 1 person runs the country and I mean it's completely silly but and in many ways the presidency is like a symbolic but think that the system gives us to reinforce our sense of of you know consent of the governed and and it's more of the of the of of you know we projected are needs and hopes on to this 1 individual and then the the the the trick for a successful president is how to appear to be many things to enough people in your coalition that the guy who likes diet cola and the guy who likes a classic coke and the guy who likes cherry cola each will think that you really are a person who only likes 1 of those things and that unites all the color lovers and who the 1 thing they really just can't stand seltzer you know I mean it that's the the president is like a war test and there is a reason why we get president's like that I think because they're in an impossible role they have to be many things to many people so your question about seriously governing it is it has nothing to do with the president to me the president has the capacity to change consciousness because he still has this big bully pulpit that he can reach millions of people at any time we're in at a time when attention is so drastically fragmented the few places where you can still focus attention are important and so if he says let the government tries to be more open and participatory what that actually means is that among the millions of people who actually work in government the ones who do want to be more open and participatory now have been given a mandate to try something whereas before the previous president said no government has to stay close we don't share information and then you know so it's much more about setting a tone than it is about actually governing other questions yeah still looks like the episode was well thanks for being here I think despite all the flaws you mentioned we're used to light years ahead of us in terms of open government so we can learn a lot anyway my question to use and you said that the Obama campaign had at least some aspects of astroturfing as opposed to a true grass-roots campaign after reading classical right because I only agree with you but would you say that that DT party movement is actually perhaps a better example of a grassroots movement taking advantage of all the tools of epsilon I guess I would say that I would say that the tea party movement is several things at once so 1 leg is the people who supported run all in the primaries who were really hard core libertarians and and they were already using the internet in profoundly us a of bottom-up kinds of ways and that's just kept going and then you will into it in the other new you know in many cases these are just grass-roots or other people organizing something was this that I like the sound of that I think governments to be and I don't trust Obama and and so on deformity party chapter and they have absolutely no leader and no clear structure and some of them I think quite consciously think in terms of of network you know almost never right which is why they can't stop it they don't know who to arrest if you will write no it's 1 thing uh 1 of the tea party leaders in Seattle was quoted as saying that you know you can rest 3 million litres if
each 1 of them is potentially a tea party leader but some of the weaknesses and then there's the 3rd leg which is that the Republicans our establishment pieces of it have created astroturf organizations like the Tea Party Express that was founded by former lobbyists and they're trying their best to channel this energy back into the Republican Party cerebellum is trying to do that too and I don't think it holds together very well and this is again you know it's it's a great of a counterexample to my argument about empowering the base and and John Ross cars that the PDF conference that we had in Barcelona last fall of famously said that in the end of the grassroots bottom-up has to be enforced from the top down and I I think he means you know you need both working in concert with each other if you don't have that you end up with crazy all over the place you know rallies that have no focus where the worst elements of get to speak where you know anything goes and the result is that a lot of Americans are very turned off by the more extreme pieces of this but you know that the bigger picture the biggest story I think the tea party movement shows again that we are now swimming in an environment where anybody with a message that resonates can now spread it on their own they don't need massive infusions of money In the case of doesn't help that they have Fox News and you know we can talk about what that means but I guess I mean I think we're going to continue to see that if Obama by the way if the health care bill had failed I think we would have seen an explosion on the latter of people who were like I can't take this anymore I kept my mouth shut I'm trying to give him a chance but he didn't completely wrong and I know it no longer going to be silent and bypassing it he actually bought himself more time and a 2nd lease on life from his own base and then he has to keep delivering something is based so that all those hopes that he raised don't translate into independent action last question please come I'm wondering about drowning trotting out the center and went through we because the we is still dependent upon the social structure of society and especially if you look at the US well essentially the divided country pretty much right in the center so if you do we you will only ever get 1 part of the country you will never be able to and created a powerbase that will regional 66 % for example to do some real change the of public opinion so in order to govern from the center which essentially need to do you will have to rely upon institutional frameworks which is this Obama did in the end you read a parliamentary floor ruled surpasses help purple shirt I disagree I think the problem is that they didn't take seriously the possibility In the transition from winning the election to governing in figuring out how to continue this grassroots inclusive movement which at its height was way more than just the left OK there were a lot of independence and a lot of Republicans who decided to vote for Obama because they wanted to give him a chance they actually thought he would be different and that not just the conventional liberal satisfying liberal interest groups but the thing is is that there was no imagination on the part of the leadership in terms of planning how they spend all their time planning the transition into power In very formal terms who's going to get 1 appointment is gonna get what jobs and the grassroots transition there was no planning and literally the phones were ringing in Chicago the days after the election people were calling all over the country how OK now what have we keep going and they had no answer they had no website even engaging people in a conversation about that and the people who might have led that effort at convening and curating and a meaningful national conversation most of them are were never brought into the administration and they did not reach out to the of a community of practice in the United States called deliberative democracy but then there's a very good article about this uh by a writer from Harvard name Archon Fung in the latest issue of the American Prospect magazine called something like Obama's tea party our tea party of his own and he points out that when we went through this horrible process with the town hall meetings where people screaming at each other of last summer and the worst kind of nasty polarization is being it didn't have to be like that it's because Congress and the White House didn't take seriously the need to plan of a better process for public engagement we call a lot of this participation theater you know the town hall meetings were originally set up so that members of Congress could explain why they were voting that way they were not to engage people and what they should do but to tell them we've already decided and that's pretty offensive so I think it's a missed opportunity and whether they can regain that opportunity it's probably gone I feel like in many ways these decisions whether was the decision to of keeping Wall Street in charge of economic policy or the decision to make those deals on health care for the decision to basically treat your grassroots like a list that you can you know of like a TV network only better all those decisions were actually what the inner circle around Obama floor and Obama himself who may be a little more intelligent than a little more creative certainly wasn't paying attention to these details and maybe frankly I don't think cares and I mean I don't know but I think there is another way and the problem is is that you have to pay attention to the the that you know our current approach to doing public dialog is broken you can't do it through television you can't let that cable channels and the most extreme voices be the only voices we here and by the way the Internet may not be helping them right youtube videos of angry people shouting at each other just make us all feel worse and we we begin to think that there is no middle the fact is that most Americans are in the middle there not ideological they're mostly interested in what would get them effective government I don't care about the label just give me a government that works and if you can make it work and give me a refund that's about that's pretty much summarizing American colleagues the opportunity for the Democrats want to be showing that they can renovate how government works and so that it actually becomes a positive force in people's lives and if they don't do that they don't deserve power I don't know what will follow but that's what they should be be doing anyway thank you for your time for your attention and i'm happy to stick around and keep talking if you want to see you in New York few it doesn't really