The practical limits of e-politics

The net neutrality crowd apparently has fallen into the common trap of “bubble thinking” that because everyone they talk to supports NN, everyone must surely see it that way. While blogging maybe the future, Washington and Congress have never been early adopters. Congress still communicates largely the old-fashioned way: in person, in meetings, over the phone, through hearings and briefings by experts and professionals, at special events or town meetings, and through personal letters and personalized emails.

Last Thursday, the House voted 269-152 against NN; in other words after getting deluged with NN emails, 64% of the people’s representatives voted against NN. How could that be? Well, a must-read Washington Post article from today has exposed some of the practical limits of e-politics.

  • Jeffery Birnbaum, in his K Street Confidential column, explains that Congress believes it is effectively being spammed by groups pushing a variety of agendas.
  • In response, Congress is erecting elaborate technical hoops to try and thwart what I call the political spammers from overwhelming their small constituent support staffs. Surprise. Surprise. Congress doesn’t like political spam any more than the average person likes spam or junk mail.

Horrors! How could anyone consider mass political emails…spam? Isn’t that the essence of e-democracy!  Where any online citizen can write their Representative and Senators, (and everyone else’s too) many times a day? And isn’t it particularly persuasive if lots and lots of different people and computer email programs all deluge Congress at once on the same topic? That will surely convince them!

Congress couldn’t have caught on yet that all those emails are free? Or could they have?