July 10, 2008
So I’m completely enchanted with the little flurry of activity around Congressman John Culberson. Let our Congress tweet, says Sunlight! “[A] Congressman starting to use Twitter just made our representative democracy real to me” says a Culberson constituent (in the comments)!
I know it sounds hopelessly over-the-top.
But stuff like this — a once-live Qik video feed from somewhere inside the U.S. Capitol, with Culberson turning the camera around on a Fox News reporter — gives me a deep civic thrill.
Deeper than Barack Obama, believe it or not; because for as stirring as Obama’s speeches are, and for as neat as barackobama.com is, I still feel the undiminished distance. Could our presidential candidates get any more remote? Everybody wants a piece of Obama; everybody wants a glimpse. There are layers of advisors, layers of staff, layers of reporters, layers of bloggers, jeez now layers of barackobama.com users who are more into it than I am!
It’s a pyramid, not a mesh.
It’s exactly how I felt about traditional news, back when I was considering working at a newspaper or magazine: How disconnected. How distant.
Contrast to John Culberson’s tweets and his technical difficulties.
Let me be clear: I am not down with Culberson on the issues. But man do I like his style.
And if I had to pick, right now, whether the future of American government is a smart, sophisticated president consulting with his smart, sophisticated staff and making smart, sophisticated decisions in isolation, or a bunch of Members of Congress twittering live to their constituents and making videos for them and connecting them to each other — I’ll take the nerds in the cloakroom.
That sounds reductive, and it is. Probably irresponsible, too. The truth is that Barack Obama as president is going to affect more people, in deeper and more positive ways, than any number of social-media-powered legislators.
But I really do think the long game looks different.
And now Culberson has forced my hand. I’ve been sitting on a future-of-politics scenario for a bit, deciding how best to release it into the wild. But reality is moving faster than my imagination (disconcerting!) so I’d better just let you take a look.
The ballad of Matthew Smoot is here. He’s a Congressman from Michigan, and as our story begins, he’s having a tough time.
I’d love to know what you think.
Culberson update: Democratic Congressman Mike Capuano has an articulate, sensible reply to Culberson. But don’t let this meta-scuffle obscure the fundamental coolness of Qik-streaming from Congress.