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2012: The Game Changing Implications of the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS)

Nancy Bordier's picture

Tom Atlee recently described the game changing potential of the Interactive Voter Choice System in the following terms:

"The participatory social-networking capacity of the Interactive Voter Choice System shifts voters' allegiance and attention from parties, ideologies, and political categories to the actual policies they want to see implemented. The system then helps them ally with others who want to see those policies implemented, regardless of their diverse political beliefs or reasons for favoring those policies. In the process, IVCS gives rise to an empowering, collectively intelligent, evolving, self-organizing political ecosystem which can enable citizens to do the following:

  1. clarify and push for policies they want, creating their own personal "platforms"
  2. network with others to form coalitions or ad hoc lobbying groups to push preferred policies
  3. field candidates outside of the party system to promote the policies they want
  4. create new political parties
  5. work within existing parties to shape their platforms and performance
  6. hold elected representatives accountable for their performance on favored policies
  7. create parallel "shadow government" structures and policies
  8. take over political parties and dissolve them and, through all of the above, to
  9. ultimately move our politics beyond party politics and ideologies altogether.

"Imagine a politics where one hardly ever hears 'liberal' or 'conservative' or even 'transpartisan', but only discussion of the issues. Imagine a politics where grassroots organizing is finally on a level playing field -- or even favorable playing field -- with the big money players. Imagine the already-surveyed popular preferences -- like single payer health care and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- readily becoming the official policy of our government.

"I honestly think IVCS is one of the most important emerging forms of political leverage we have available. Of course it can only do its job if it is well-funded for software development, viral promotion, and political strategizing so it can launch with strong popular appeal, participation, and well-thought-out security safeguards to prevent its marginalization, subversion or co-optation. If that happens soon enough, the chances are extremely high that it will have a decisive positive impact on the critical watershed 2012 election and every election after that. It could be a total game-changer."

When I read Tom's article, my immediate reaction was that he had explained IVCS and its game changing potential in the most compelling terms that have been written on the subject. So I shared the article with a number of people who have expressed interest in IVCS. Their enthusiastic response was that they got the big picture, but were still unclear about how IVCS actually works. They asked for a clear explanation of how it enables voters, not political parties or special interests, to determine the outcomes of elections. How can voters use the system to run and elect their own candidates? I have written this post to answer these questions.

Humble Beginnings

Sheer frustration caused the idea for IVCS to pop into my head in 2004 during a campaign event for Howard Dean during his presidential primary bid. While milling around with his supporters waiting for Dean to start a nationwide conference call, I realized that his campaign slogan "You have the power" didn't jibe with the powerless role supporters like myself were relegated to playing at the event.

The way it was structured made it impossible for me to do what I came to do, which was to pressure Dean to remain true to his initial opposition to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, an issue I felt he had begun to waffle on. I also wanted to see if I could get other supporters to join me in pressing Dean not to renege on his opposition to the war.

The absence of any way for me to press my concern, and rally other anti-war supporters, hit home to me a political fact that I had not fully appreciated before. It is that in U.S. politics, electoral candidates conduct their campaigns on a "take it or leave it" basis. I had been coming to this conclusion gradually over time, but attending Dean's event and seeing how much he and his modus operandi had changed since the first rally I had attended in the summer of 2003 brought it home in a very forceful and depressing way.

The main goal of most campaigning candidates, to my way of thinking, is not to find out what their prospective constituents want them to do if they are elected, but to get them to embrace the agendas the candidates think will get them the most votes. Although they often conduct opinion polls, their objective is to use the results to figure out how to frame their targeted mixed messages to re-interpret reality for voters, and cajole disparate voting blocs into voting for them for different reasons. Campaigns are about defining and interpreting reality for voters, and "imaging" the candidates so that they appear to represent the best solution to the problematic versions of "reality" the campaigns create.

This systemic duplicity is basically a reversal of the democratic theory that elected officials should represent the people. Candidates do not seek or run on mandates from their constituents. Instead, they get voters to vote for them by manipulating their perceptions of reality and their images of the candidates themselves. Once these disingenuous candidates get into office, they can turn democratic theory upside down and claim that the voters who voted for them gave them a mandate to enact the candidates' agendas!

While I didn't think that Dean was disingenuous in any way, and I was impressed by the wonderfully innovative ways his campaign staff had created to use the Internet to keep his supporters close to the campaign, I could see from what was going on at the event that his campaign was beginning to resemble traditional campaigns. Even though I had initially thought that Dean and I were on the same page about the Iraq war, he was moving in the direction of turning that page, and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it at the event.

What waiting for Dean to start the pre-scheduled conference call that would connect dozens of campaign events around the country, I tried without success to initiate issue-oriented conversations. I thought that if I could find other supporters who shared my concern about his weakening position on the war, we might be able to make common cause and pressure Dean to reinforce his opposition to the war.

But I quickly realized that the meeting was not designed to enable us to influence Dean's agenda, or even engage in a substantive cross-fertilization of policy ideas among ourselves. Just like similar campaign events that were being organizing by other candidates around the country through Meetup.com, it had different goals. The first, I thought, was to give us the impression that we were part of a nationwide campaign (albeit as passive spectators, in my book) that was gaining momentum. The second was to get us to make financial contributions to Dean's campaign, which most of us had already started doing, online and offline.

My realization that the organizers and issue-oriented supporters like myself were at odds on the purpose of the meeting heightened my frustration. It increased my determination to figure out how to transform the event into one that would deliver on Dean's "You have the power" exhortation by enabling me and possibly other supporters to influence his agenda.

The idea I came up with was that each attendee could jot down on a piece of paper a list of the policies he or she wanted to see Dean implement, if he were elected. Then we could combine all the policies in one list. These policies would constitute OUR AGENDA, which we could email to Dean's headquarters. If he wanted our votes, Dean would have to show us that he had incorporated the priorities contained in our agenda into HIS AGENDA.

As I thought about the details of how such a process could work, I realized that most of the people attending the event did not know each other, and that they probably held fairly diverse preferences and priorities. It was also likely that the depth and breadth of their understanding of the policy options open to them would vary considerably.

Since I could also imagine them differing over what they each meant by the policies they were supporting or opposing, and how they defined these options, I decided that instead of writing down their priorities in their own words, the best way to get the process of agenda setting started, and possibly segue into a dialogue, would be to provide each attendee a pre-set list of recognizable policy options from which they could choose those they were most concerned about. This modus operandi would have the added benefit of exposing participants to a whole spectrum of options they might not have ever thought about before.

In a leap of imagination, I decided that one fairly easy and inviting way to present these options would be to give each person a deck of playing cards with the name of a policy option written on the front of each card, like withdrawal from Iraq, with details regarding the option written on the back of the card, e.g., timing, etc. If people didn't find options they were looking for, they could use the wild cards in the deck to create and write down their own options.

Initially, attendees could individually could go through their card decks and select the cards with the issues they cared most about. Then they could prioritize their preferences by putting the card with the option that was their top priority at the top of their selection of cards, and then continue on down to the card they least preferred of all those they had selected.

After this step was completed, I thought that participants in this political card game that I would later call Citizens' Winning Hands would be interested in comparing their choices with those of other people, and the group as a whole. This could be done by having one person take a new deck and hold up each card to see how many people had selected that policy. Then everyone could see what were the priorities of the group as a whole, in rank order.

I thought that this tallying exercise could spark a discussion of the various policy preferences people had chosen. It would let those who felt strongly about certain policies argue on behalf of their priorities, and try to convince other people to embrace them as well. I, of course, would argue that withdrawal from Iraq should be the most important, but I knew that I would have to defend that choice to attendees who had chosen a policy option opposing withdrawal.

To me, this agenda-setting exercise would have transformed what I thought was a rather meaningless campaign event into something worthwhile because it would get to the heart of what democratic decision-making is all about. It would bring voters together to express their needs and wants of a political nature, and help them develop a consensus on what they want government and their elected representatives to do to meet their collective needs and wants.

In the context of Dean's campaign event, we would be actively participating in setting our own individual agendas as well as a collective agenda for the group as a whole, and then using both to try to influence Dean's agenda. Once we had set our individual and collective agendas, we could exercise the power that Dean's campaign slogan said we had, by transmitting them to Dean's campaign headquarters via the Internet. There, they could be tallied with those of other groups like ours, and integrated into Dean's agenda -- assuming of course that he wanted the votes of us agenda-setters who had sent them in. I liked the idea of transmitting our agenda electronically because it meant that the millions of voters who were climbing onto Dean's bandwagon could really take a stand and collectively make their individual stands count.

Having run for elective office myself, I also thought that Dean's campaign staff would be interested in knowing which supporters in various parts of the country were advocating which policy priorities. I even imagined that his staff might be interested in getting together groups of supporters who shared the same priorities and tasking them with fleshing out these priorities so the campaign would know exactly what they wanted. This would provide direct grassroots input into Dean's platform and transform his supporters into active players in determining the direction of his campaign.

IVCS Matures and Migrates to the web

After the event and Dean's defeat in the primary, I kept the original idea of IVCS percolating in the back of my mind for several years until after the 2006 elections. Although the new Congress brought in a new Democratic majority in the Senate, Congress did not move to end the war in Iraq, contrary to public opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans favored ending it.

This tragic disconnect between the people and the nation's lawmakers forced me to finally admit to myself that the U.S. system of government is so far from being democratic that even a majority of voters are unable to get their elected representatives to end a five year war that most people think the U.S. should never have started in the first place. With the untapped potential of my agenda setting mechanism uppermost in my mind, I decided the time had come for me to figure out how to use it to empower voters to replace this failed system with a democratically elected government controlled by the people. My intuition told me that the capabilities of the mechanism could be expanded to empower them to do this.

As I mulled over the possibilities, it became obvious to me that not only could IVCS enable voters to influence the agendas of electoral candidates and elected officials, but, even more importantly, it could connect like-minded voters with common policy preferences to each other so they could join forces to actually run and elect their own candidates who would enact their common agendas into law.

IVCS could use the Internet and a single social networking website to connect voters to each other horizontally, voter-to-voter, without intermediaries, instead of vertically through the intermediary of a campaign or a political party that is controlled from the top down. With social networking website Facebook showing that hundreds of millions of users can be connected to each other worldwide, a website built around IVCS could provide agenda-setting and consensus-building tools to the entire U.S. electorate of two hundred million eligible voters.

As I thought about the possibilities that would flow from migrating my idea for voter agenda-setting to the Internet, I realized that it was statistically and technically feasible to connect any number of voters with similar policy priorities to each other so they can join forces to create voting blocs that can elect representatives who will enact their priorities into law. These blocs could work inside or outside existing political parties, or create new parties.

All voters would have to do to tap into this possibility is to submit the policy options they choose from the IVCS Policy Options Database I was creating to the IVCS Policy Priorities Database. They can then query the priorities database to identify voters with statistically similar priorities, by ZIP code. They can use the website's internal email to contact these voters, as described on the homepage of the IVCS website. (Prototypes of the Policy Options Database and the website can be viewed by clicking here and here.)

Voters who identify and directly contact other voters with similar policy priorities can form initially form their own groups, just like on Facebook, and then transform their groups into voting blocs, using online organizing tools provided on the IVCS website, which can perform the same functions as political parties in terms of selecting and running candidates for office. But they don't actually have to form political parties to do this. Instead, their voting blocs can run their candidates in party primaries on the lines of existing parties instead of creating their own parties -- just as the Tea Party did in the 2010 elections when it ran its candidates on Republican lines.

However, IVCS-enabled voting blocs will differ quite significantly from traditional political parties because their voter members will be empowered to set the blocs' agendas and use their agendas to screen, select and nominate candidates who endorse their agendas and pledge to exert their best efforts to enact them into law if they are elected. Once these blocs elect their candidates to office, they can use their agendas as legislative mandates and hold their representatives accountable for their track records in implementing them.

Regardless of the stance that voting blocs take towards political parties, they will be more powerful politically and electorally than political parties because they will fundamentally change the institutional framework of electoral politics. That's because they will be able to create broad-based electoral coalitions around transpartisan policy agendas that can easily outflank and outmaneuver those of stand-alone political parties and their candidates.

IVCS-enabled voting blocs can use IVCS agenda-setting and consensus-building tools to engage voters across the political spectrum in negotiating which priorities to include and exclude from their agendas, and which candidates to include in common slates. They can continue negotiating and even voting on these issues, using the IVCS Voting Utility, until they attract the number of votes they need to elect their candidates.

In essence, IVCS provides voters across the political spectrum the leverage and the tools they need to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what policies are enacted into law, as I describe in 2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests.

The 2012 Elections: Changing the Game

Polls show that the 2010 elections were a triumph of the manipulative techniques used by disingenuous electoral candidates, political parties and special interests to influence and distort voters' perceptions of reality and the intentions of the candidates themselves. A large segment of the voting population elected representatives who advocate policies that conflict with the policies voters prefer, policies that will exacerbate the economic and financial distress that voters want lawmakers to alleviate.

One such poll shows unequivocally that voters are far more concerned about their jobs and the nation's economy than the nation's budget deficit, and want the nation's lawmakers to give top priority to spurring job-creating economic growth. They are adamant that lawmakers "'keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare' as they attempt to address the national deficit", according to one post-election .

But the newly elected representatives in Congress have joined with incumbents of both parties in announcing their intention to do just the opposite. They plan to reduce Social Security and Medicare spending as a deficit reduction measure, which will increase unemployment, and enact $100 billion in budget cuts that will stymie job creation and economic recovery.

There is only one way that the U.S. electorate can put an immediate end to this disconnect between voters and the lawmakers they vote into office -- without changing the gerrymandering, campaign finance and election laws that have been passed to create the disconnect. It is the Interactive Voter Choice System.

That's because IVCS enables grassroots voters across the political spectrum to take control of the nation's agenda-setting process, and form winning voting blocs around transpartisan agendas that can elect representatives who will enact their agendas into law. They can form winning coalitions and electoral bases around transpartisan agendas by aligning with old and new parties, labor unions and political advocacy groups, while offering them unprecedented opportunities to mobilize voters at the grassroots.

Most importantly, if these groups engage with voters throughout the country in on-going, collective efforts to create genuine agenda-setting and coalition-building processes, they can neutralize the manipulative techniques employed by special interests and their political accomplices to distort voters perceptions of reality and induce them to elect candidates who will enact policies inimical to their best interests.

Moreover, if new third parties and populist movements emerge, these blocs and coalitions can incorporate them into their alliances by using IVCS consensus-building tools to enable all their members to collectively set common agendas and run common slates of candidates. By so doing, they can prevent the fragmentation of the electorate into splinter groups and parties too small to win elections.

Most importantly, on the policy front, by using IVCS to elect a new Congress that is accountable to the American people, voters can put a stop to the continuing upward transfer of wealth that is financially ruining the middle class and working Americans, due to special interests' control of the real economy, the nation's banking and financial system, and the nation's elected representatives, via their campaign contributions.

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Submitted by Aaron Em on

Where do you plan to get your users?

The overlap between the sort of tech-savvy types who'll be needed to understand it (assuming they can, that is; I'm a tech-savvy type, or at least having worked the last six years as a programmer/analyst and sysadmin I hope I am, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to me), and the politically active types who'll be needed to make good use of it, can't be that broad. How do you plan to pull in the everybody else you'll need in order for the site to be really useful? And how do you plan to make it "sticky" enough that, when one person starts using it, she'll pull in two more people, who pull in three more, who...

Facebook did that, and that's why it has a hundred zillion users or whatever the latest count is. If you'd built a Facebook app, instead of a whole separate site, I could believe you'd at least have a chance at a decent userbase, even if I still didn't think you'll find using it to topple the establishment anywhere near as straightforward as you're imagining it to be. As things are -- well, best of luck, I suppose.

(Yeah, yeah, everybody's a critic -- which is the same thing I heard in 2008, when I was the last person I knew who refused to get high on Barack Hoover Obama, and look how that turned out...)

Submitted by wlarip on

Clever programming is like flypaper. It catches you before you know it. But it doesn't work if you don't land on it.

Facebook(and other social networking) works because it is relevant to people's lives and makes those same lives immediately relevant to each other.

Surf on its userbase and insinuate your agenda(progressive politics) into their lifestream by virtue of establishing your relevancy to their interests and concerns.

If they are under 30(and even older), you can't win them with a didactic pitch.
But you can catch their eyeballs and direct them anywhere you like. They will continue to look until they get bored.

Any IVCS website needs a tiered drill down approach that gives the user as much(or as little) policy as they want to know. But presentation has to remain geared to why they went there. If the Facebook app points the user to a specific relevant concern on IVCS and there is a solution to the user's problem, he 'likes' it and his friends become your friends.

Once you have their attention, you can organize all you like.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

I am total agreement with your propositions above.

IVCS will definitely have a social networking interface along Facebook lines.

Here's a link to a comment from Corrente member Jumpjet from October 17 that indicates we are all converging on these pre-requisites:

I am mightily intrigued by the idea of a 'political Facebook.'.

I save all these insights and helpful comments, for which I am most grateful.

Who knows, we might all be able to join forces in the not too distant future to put them into operation!

Submitted by wlarip on

for all!

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

Hello Aaron Em,

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. On the topic of users, polls show that a large majority of Americans think that their elected representatives favor special interests over public interests. They hold the two major parties in contempt and would like to see viable third parties emerge. Millennial generation voters (born between 1980 and 2000) are web savvy, politically astute, gave Obama his margin of victory and are currently pretty put off by his failure to uphold his campaign promises. They are the hardest hit by the lack of jobs, affordable healthcare, etc. Millennials are already a larger voting bloc than seniors (25% versus 16%) and will represent 40% of the electorate in 2020.

I think Millennial generation voters, in particular, will gravitate towards the IVCS social networking website and bring other generations of voters (friends and families) with them because the electorate as a whole is pretty much infuriated by our elected officials, and have few other alternatives for influencing legislative politics or electing responsive representatives.

There is a possibility of partnering with Facebook, but IVCS users will have to have confidentiality and privacy protections that Facebook does not currently provide, except in the group technology whose members are limited in number. Also, we will need to integrate data processing capabilites into our site that Facebook does not currently offer.

As to toppling the political establishment, I think it is imploding and will not need overt toppling.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Out of curiosity, what is the politically astute label based on? That sentence sounds like marketing copy for the Obama campaign. Adding that Millenials gave Obama his margin of victory turns it into a bit of an oxymoron. Meaning, more astute than other generations? than other generations were at that age? Is really a characteristic of the generation?

Not long after the 2008 campaign, I went looking for some stats on "youth" voter turnout. (defined as 18-29 yrs) Turns out that Obama, contrary to the barrage of OFB marketing materials, did not break any records with regard to mobilizing younger voters. In terms of participation by younger voters, 2008 was behind 1972 and 1992, and only a bit ahead of 2004 (for Kerry vs Bush!). (the link is to stats from The Center for Information & Research on Civic Voting -- it has some stuff with regard to younger voters that may be interesting). Of course, participation in voting is not the same thing as being "politically astute", but I have to wonder if the characterization of Obama's youth support as being astounding and unprecedented has contributed to the idea that what are the current crop of younger voters are somehow especially "astute" with regard to politics.

Regardless, I think IVCS is an excellent idea. In terms of drawing in younger voters (as that seems to be part of your goal), my admittedly limited interaction with social-networking campaign and political sites has been that while they are using a new technology, they still haven't really adapted to the new culture of interaction which is fueling it.

Most political and advocacy sites are still top-down: We (the campaign, pac, etc) send bulletins and ask for money and volunteers) while You (plebes) can comply, or not. Yeah, you can comment on FB or tweet on Twitter, but the political groups really just use it as the digital version of a volunteer sign-up sheet. It's really not peer-level interactions, and certainly not a dynamic, grassroots interaction. THAT is what social networking participants are getting used to -- a system of interactive inputs -- that distinguishes it from the traditional hierarchy of communication employed in politics. And it sounds like IVCS is designed to actually make use of the/a new paradigm. And really, all us elderly geezers might find it useful, too, after our grandkids show us how to use the microwave.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

I was struck by what you said re: "politically astute", and also the stats you gave.

It reminded me of a conversation I'd had way back when.... with my "best friend" (college days). I told her that I was severely opposed to Obama. Her line of argument Pro-Obama was that all of the other D candidates had "priors", too entrenched, etc. Oh, she has two offspring in the 18-29 age group. She said "This generation deserves its own President."

I often remember that comment... "deserves its own President". Did she really know what she meant?

I have to say that I am coming at this from a rather biased perspective- I never trusted Obama, and he's turned out to be way worse than I imagined, way back when. I could go into details as to why, but I'll keep this short.

Your comment caused me to revisit a source of data I've been tracking, and then to update from my last entry. Gallup seems to be the best source for tracking age-groups and Obama approval ratings.

I hand typed in info from www.gallup.com/poll/124922/Presidential-Approval-Center.aspx

Obama approval Gallup mid Nov

http://www.flickr.com/photos/38194075@N05/5196672041/

And, thus, looking at the stats above, given my own geezer bias, and more, I'd be hard put to believe that the 19-30 age group is the most "politically astute". Thus, I embrace your view.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

The graph -- nice work!

One thing that's really interesting about your graph is that only the youngest age group does not overlap with other age groups at any point. Also, from March 2010 on, all three 30+ age groups are below 50%, while for the under-30s support only dropped below the 50% mark once, at the beginning of August. And several spikes in younger support correlate with nadirs (can I use that as a plural?) in older support.

Making sweeping generalizations from polls on support is a dicey activity, but I'd say that the campaign that won industry marketing awards captured its market and the market has remained captured. And perhaps that the age war was waged rather successfully.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

You said: "I'd say that the campaign that won industry marketing awards captured its market and the market has remained captured. And perhaps that the age war was waged rather successfully."

I do wonder, though, how this "approval rating" esp. for 19-30 matches with turnout for the 2010 midterms. The Gallup poll is the only source I found that breaks down "approval" by age. I didn't keep any "bookmarks" or such when reading about the midterm results, so I can't say for sure- but my impression (perhaps wrong) is that is was the younger voters who were the main "non voters" in the midterms. (Oh, yeah, and the Dems. of any age)

It would probably take me way more time and chops than I have to document my vague impression on that (the youth vote).

But, it may be that "captured market" as far as approval polls is way different than "captured voters", if you see what I mean.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

That Center for Information site has estimates of younger voter turnout for the 2010 midterms. For this set of midterms, the percent of younger voters voting was lower than 2006, although within what they call a "typical" range. So, basically, all the brouhaha about how Obama was setting off a new era of youth participation in political activities never materialized. Go figure.

What that means for whether younger voters will show up in 2012, when their brand is up for elimination (oh wait, wrong television spectacle), I mean for voting, who can tell? His approval level even among younger voters is trending downward, so it's probably not too crazy to claim it won't be in 2012 what it was in 2008. All very interesting.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

When I labeled Millennials as being "politically astute", it had nothing to do with their support for Obama. They were just as misled as everybody else, and their support for Obama has plummeted sharply as they have recognized just how misled they were.

Their refusal to turn out to vote in post-2008 elections in the same numbers as they did in 2008 shows that they are politically astute enough not be be duped again, given the abject failure of the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress to vote into law any significant portion of the promises Obama made on the campaign trail.

The fact that Millennials are comfortable using social networking technology, are politically attentive, and got burned by Obama and the electoral system, makes me optimistic that they will enthusiastically embrace IVCS when it is up and running.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

weren't fooled by Obama at all. Millenials seem to have been "duped" more than most. And midterm voting has reverted to its previous numbers among younger voters. So I can't see anything particularly 'astute' among them. And astute <> pragmatic.

That they are the generation most likely to take to IVCS I agree with, because they have the highest usage now. Fortunately for IVCS, for some measure of success, you only need a certain level of participation, regardless of quality.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

What I meant when I referred to Millennials as being "politically astute" is that they tend to be pragmatic rather than ideological in their views about how they would like elected officials to resolve societal crises.

They, like everybody else, think the country is headed in the wrong direction and that even though elected officials have a poor track record in resolving crises, they should nevertheless step up to the plate and solve the problems, especially relating to jobs and unemployment, health care and providing educational opportunity.

The research I have read about Millennials' pragmatic approach and their views about the poor legislative track records of elected officials has NOT led them to conclude, like other voting blocs, that we should have limited government and leave most things to the private sector.

Regarding Millennials in the 2008 elections, I was not referring to the overall turnout but to research that says Millennials gave Obama his victory margin.

Here's a link to one study: It's Official: Millennials re-aligned American Politics in 2008

Here's a quote from another survey":

"The Millennial generation (birth years 1978 to 1996 or 2000, depending on definition) made a huge impact on this election. I have made a detailed analysis of this impact and how it is likely to grow in the future in a new report, Generation We and the 2008 Election. Here are some of the key findings form that report.

"In 2008, 18-29 year olds, now all members of the Millennial generation , voted Democratic by a stunning 66-32 margin. And they did so with remarkable generational consistency: 18-24 year olds voted 66-32 Democratic while 25-29 year olds voted 66-31 Democratic. Essentially no difference.

"Obama’s support among 18-29 year olds was remarkably broad, extending across racial barriers. He carried not just Hispanic 18-29 year olds (76-19) and black (18-29 year old (95-4) but also white 18-29 year olds (54-44). Obama’s 10 point advantage among white 18-29 year olds contrasts starkly with his 15 deficit among older whites.

"Obama’s huge overall margin among Millennials contributed mightily to his strong victory this November. Indeed, without 18-29 year olds, Obama’s popular vote margin would have been slightly under one percentage point. That figure implies that the overwhelmingly proportion of Obama’s popular vote victory (87 percent) was attributable to the support of 18-29 year old Millennials. Indeed, without these Millennial voters, Obama would have been hard-pressed to claim much of a mandate from his election victory.

"It is important to stress that the Millennials’ political leanings are not just about party but rather reflect a deep structure of progressive attitudes that propels them, at this point, toward one particular party. In a recent post, I cited some exit poll data showing how heavily Millennials endorse the idea of increased government activism to solve problems. More complete recent data on Millennials’ attitudes comes from the Democracy Corps/Campaign for America’s Future (DC/CAF) post-election survey of 2000 voters, conducted November 4-5. Full crosstabs from this survey have been made publicly available on the web, so it is possible to look at the answers of 18-29 year old Millennials for every question on the survey.

"Consider these findings. Millennials showed less tax sensitivity than voters as a whole in terms of moves to increase economic performance and fairness. For example, respondents were given the choice “I'm more worried that we will fail to make the investments we need to create jobs and strengthen the economy. OR I'm more worried that we will go too far in increasing government spending and will end up raising taxes to pay for it”. Millennials chose the first over the second statement by 67-33, while voters overall were split down the middle 48-49. Similarly, the following choice was posed about corporate tax breaks: “I'm more worried that we will give more tax breaks to the rich and corporations. OR I'm more worried that we will go too far taxing the rich and corporations”. Millennials favored the first statement over the second by 74-26, compared to 61-34 among all voters.

"A related economic policy choice was the following: “When I voted, I was more concerned that Obama will raise taxes and increase government spending. OR When I voted, I was more concerned that McCain will continue the economic policies that have cost us jobs and caused higher prices”. By 57-33, Millennials were more concerned about McCain’s policies causing job loss and price hikes than about Obama’s policies causing tax hikes and spending increases. But among voters as a whole, this choice elicited a very close 49-45 split.

"On health care, respondents were offered these two statements: “Our health care system needs fundamental reform, we should regulate insurance companies and give everyone a choice between a public plan or what they have right now. OR Our health care system needs fundamental reform; we should give American families more choice by giving individuals a tax credit to choose their own coverage”. Millennials preferred the first over the second statement by 67-32, a substantially higher margin than among all voters (58-38). There was also a health care statement pair about how boldly to act to solve the problem: “On health care, we need to act boldly to address the problems. OR On health care, we need to act step-by-step to address the problems”. Millennials were solidly on the side of moving boldly, rather than step-by-step (57-38), while voters as a whole actually sided slightly with the more incremental approach (46-50).

"All this augurs well for progressive policy priorities. As does the fact that the Millennials’ influence on the electorate will grow sharply until at least 2016. There were about 48 million eligible Millennial voters in 2008, a figure that will rise to 64 million in 2012 and 81 million in 2016. That's an awful lot of potential support for progressive public policy. It will be up to progressives to mobilize that support and keep it mobilized."

Submitted by wlarip on

The Millennials have become acutely aware that their future or lack of it is directly correlated with what the government does or doesn't do.

The anti-war movement of the '60's certainly had a moral component. It also had a absurdity component because youth is always skeptical of the dogma that their parents attempt to drill into them. But the motive power was the draft. They realized that, not only could they be forced to kill for nothing, but also to die for it.

Pragmatism is the dynamic here. They need jobs and a sense of idealism to insulate them from fear of the future. Despite their disappointment with Obama, they know that 'tuning out' is suicide.

It is a marvelous opportunity for progressives because progressive ideas are bread and butter to young people.

The internet is a direct pipeline into their brains. The stars are aligned. The wheel won't come around again for a while.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

It makes me so happy to read what you wrote above because it resonates exactly with how I think and feel, and how I construe the potential of Millennials.

Submitted by Aaron Em on

Since IVCS's login system is either not working or not available, I can't evaluate it for vulnerability to wireless cookie-sniffing attacks such as that automated by Firesheep. That said, it's an easy vuln to introduce without realizing it, especially for naive developers; in short, if you accept unencrypted connections and you consider the same (i.e., unpermuted) cookie value as valid identification for every page load, then any bastard worth his black hat can steal your users' identities on your site and screw things up badly for them and you both.

The most secure and straightforward way to solve this problem is to force all traffic to or from your site to go across an encrypted (HTTPS) connection, which is trivial in terms of implementation effort and marginal at worst in terms of additional bandwidth usage -- certainly cheaper than the PR calamity which would be having your service or users compromised on a wide scale. (And if you're really trying to help people change the world, shouldn't you do absolutely everything in your power to make sure you're offering them trustworthy tools with which to try to do so?)

Submitted by Aaron Em on

On the client side (in your browser) it's doable via HTTPS-Everywhere or Force-TLS.

On the server side (for Corrente) it's doable in the code, though I'm not a Drupal specialist so can't say exactly where. I should imagine it's pretty straightforward, though.

Submitted by lambert on

That is doable through a rewrite rule.

The key thing is that the user not have to do anything.

Submitted by Aaron Em on

Eh. You could do it with mod_rewrite, sure, but I'd do it in the code instead; the relative cost in computing resource is so small as to be utterly negligible, mod_rewrite is a pain (and I say this as someone who dreams about Perl-compatible regular expressions like those mod_rewrite uses), and keeping the functional parts of your system as close as possible to one another means that much less effort if, say, you ever have to pick up and move to another hosting provider, or even just tweak or adjust something.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

These are valuable insights and suggestions and I am taking note of them.

Security, confidentiality and privacy are at the top of the list of the indispensable pre-requisites of IVCS success.

Submitted by Aaron Em on

Time's a-wastin' -- I had got the impression that IVCS was entirely ready to use, until I tried to get it to actually do anything.

If it's going to make a difference in 2012, I would humbly submit that the time to finish it, make it available to people, publicize it widely, and in general start selling the ever-loving hell out of the finished, ready-to-use service it appears not yet to be -- that time is approximately three weeks ago and counting. (Especially since the whole idea appears predicated on getting enough weight behind it to out-shove the Democratic establishment, and possibly the GOP one too. Seems to me like it shouldn't even be possible to give yourself enough lead time on doing something like that.)

Of course, I'm not a marketing professional or a senior manager or a company founder or anything spiffy like that; I'm just a trench-level developer without even the benefit of an undergraduate degree, so what on Earth could I possibly hope to know?

Submitted by Aaron Em on

I'm a reasonably skilled and experienced web developer; my languages of preference are Perl and PHP in that order, though I mostly end up working in PHP because people think Perl is hairy-scary -- which it kinda is, but it sucks a whole lot less than PHP, which is little more than a sloppy farrago of every damn thing they could think to throw in. (It's a functional sloppy farrago, don't get me wrong; it's just that Perl makes almost everything so much easier.) And I've hacked Java a few times, with a reasonable amount of success despite the fact that its philosophy is so much at odds with mine; that said, I wouldn't put it on a resume.

I'm also a reasonably skilled and experienced systems/networks admin, though I do admit to being a bit stronger on the development end of things. I can also pass for a MySQL DBA in a pretty good light, though that's not really a difficult thing to do; if you're passably clever, you can pick up all you need from reading the manual and then screwing up a few dozen times. (It's also not a terribly hard field in which to excel when maybe one person in a hundred ever bothers to do more than take all the defaults during install and then never screw around with the configuration ever again.)

While it's not really relevant here, I have a bit of telecoms experience as well -- mostly on the cable-monkey level -- i.e., you know those network cables in the walls of your office? I know exactly how they got there, and it's a sweaty, filthy, exhausting, profanity-laden job, too -- but I could repatch a telephone demarcation or (along with the carrier's technician) handle a T1 install if I had to.

For about the last half of the six-and-a-bit years I've spent at my current job, I've also been the guy who solves your problem when nobody else can figure out where to start or what to do -- a hard skill to describe on a CV, perhaps, but damn useful when it comes to learning a fair bit about everything.

Enough to answer your question? (And what makes you ask, if I may, assuming it's not just you finding out where the hell I get my temerity from?)

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

You are absolutely right about all the points you raise.

It has been noted that we will need a crash project to get this going, once we have the resources we need to go full steam ahead.

We may well be running out of runway but so is our democracy, and the less runway we have left makes it all the more clear that IVCS may be one of the only viable options we have to re-invent our democracy before it becomes irretrievable.

I was senior market planner at Prodigy back in the late 80's and 90's, a $ billion dollar company created by a partnership of IBM, CBS and Sears. I got a real sense of possibilities with several hundred versatile computer engineers and programmers installed on the floor below mine. They performed one miracle after another to keep up with us marketers. So that experience leads me to believe that we can make up for lost time if we have to.

Let me note in passing that trench-level developers whose minds have not been bent out of shape by too much of the wrong kind of education are the most creative folks on the planet.

Please stay in touch!

Submitted by Aaron Em on

My own experience leads me to expect that your confidence, while unquestionably robust, will turn out unfounded; that said, I wish you the best of luck.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

I see voters using IVCS to re-order the sequence of electoral processes to a certain degree.

First, individual voters will use IVCS tools to set their own personal agendas using the IVCS Policy Options Database, and locate voters with similar policy preferences.

Then they can team up to create their own groups that develop group agendas, which can be written down.

These groups can pressure elected Congressional representatives to endorse their agendas and enact their priorities into law.

If they do not, and try to run for re-election but have no track record that jibes with the groups' agendas, then the members of the group can vote against their re-election -- and run candidates against them. That's a definitive type of accountability.

I outline this process in more detail in 2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests.

Submitted by lambert on

1. I agree with Hipparchia that it's "darkly funny" to patent the data processing aspect of IVCS. At the same time, it makes sense to avoid a bad actor filing the same patent, and foreclosing the possibility.

2. I agree with the potential of the Millenials, who are, after all, very very wired (even if an oldster like me spends 18 hours a day at the keyboard programming and writing, I'm not "wired." Go figure...). Yes, the Millenials got totally shafted by The Big O, but one can only hope that was a learning experience. Has nobody on this thread ever been young and stupid? I sure was.

3. The key technical issue is privacy and security. On privacy, it may have been explained, but if so, I missed it: Must I participate in IVCS using my "real" identity, and, if so, how is "real" to be established?* (And from there we go to all the issues of identity theft.) On security, the continued stellar work of Brad Blog on e-voting makes me very, very skeptical of anything other than voting on physical, paper ballots. Fraud is the norm in our rentier state. It follows that IVCS will be attacked on that basis. I assume the patent addresses this, but I'd like to see how.

4. I like the idea of online deliberation and aggregation very much indeed, but much will depend on the human element. Moderating online communities, which IVCS must be, to deliberate, no? is not easy but very hard.

Anyhow, I can't claim to have studied this in depth, but perhaps this comment will sketch both my hopes and my skepticism.

NOTE * Note that 7 years of daily blogging have given the "lambert" persona a semblance or patina of real identity -- le style c'est l'homme même -- and that's not neglible, but it's also not the same as participating, as a citizen, in a civic act like voting.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Weren't we all? (ok, I will only speak for myself: I was. Full admission: I've often thought that if Obama had come along when I was 20, there's better than an even chance I'd've been part of the OFB).

But surely "young and stupid" is the opposite of "politically astute"?

A classic trick for many marketing campaigns is to tell the audience or consumers they are somehow special or unique for consuming the product or message. (Also, of cults). Obama (cynically) used the flattery mechanism to remarkable success ("We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For!"). That's how the prospectus-like statement of IVCS struck me – same game, different (or not?) goal.

From Chris Hedges:

But it is radically different from an image-based culture, which is primarily emotion-driven, and most of the images which are disseminated throughout our culture are skillfully put together and disseminated by for-profit corporations. So that we are made to, or we confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge.

The Millenials, more than any other generation (except, maybe the one behind them) have been steeped in that infotainment-image driven society, where those feelings are conflated with knowledge (or I'd add, analysis). They grew up thinking political discourse was shouting sarcastic barbs at "the enemy" on the teebee, where whoever was loudest or had the best snark, wins.

At the same time, because we were so busy assuring them they are special just for breathing, that their opinions are brilliant just because they have them, and that they are exceptional in every way (the validation generation), we forgot to teach them how to think. (Teaching to the test just compounds...). I think that's yet another massive fail on our part as a society, and perpetuating the idea that they are somehow especially politically 'astute' plus super-special no matter what they do (esp. when the evidence proffered doesn't point to that at all) just perpetuates the fail.

Or maybe the whole thing is just rubbing me the wrong way since obviously, as the ancient crone that I am, I'm out of the target audience.

For me, I do find encouragement in the fact that a lot of energy seems to be going into it as a possible organizing tool. But technology in and of itself doesn't really change human nature, and I'm not sure what would prevent IVCS from becoming the kind of all-out gang-wilding we saw on the political blogs the last few years (continuing – look! It's Bristol Palin! Dancing! Boil that dust speck! Boil! Boil!).

Good intentions aren't enough, as we've seen. I would be much more optimistic if the discussion around IVCS were about laying the kind of political-ethical-philosophical groundwork which surrounded the PB2.0 discussions. And if it were being propagated as a tool for the entire community of potentially politically-interested people.