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John Oliver is at it again, deeply analyzing a boring political concept in a smart, interesting — and funny — way. This time, he explains Gerrymandering, the nefarious practice of manipulating district boundaries for political advantage, named after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry. If anyone is interested in delving deeper, you can read the new book by David Daley called “Ratf**ked: the true story behind the secret plan to steal America’s democracy.”
While government information specialists mostly focus on information by the government, our users also want and need information about the government and the political process. Here is an interesting case of a website that tracks the political promises of those running for governor in California.
- Politics Verbatim collects and categorizes the promises, proposals, arguments and attacks made by the two major-party candidates for governor in California, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. The site allows voters to drill down on issues and hold the candidates accountable.
- California Watch launches Politics Verbatim, by Mark Katches, California Watch blog (June 21, 2010)
“Check out the search tool that Davis created. It allows readers to sort candidate statements by nine different categories – including promises, attacks, and vague policy points. If they dodge an issue or a subject, there’s a search category for that, too. Readers can also sort by geography, to see where the candidates have been appearing – and what parts of the state they’ve been ignoring….
“The candidates’ statements are sorted by 26 topics — from abortion to welfare.”
I think the Obama honeymoon is over. The withdrawl of nominees due to failure to pay taxes, sharp rebukes from House and Senate republicans over the economic stimulus package, That is not say his influence as a change agent is curtailed. You don’t live and survive brutal Chicago politics for very long if you fall to the ground in a faint after your opponents deliver a quick partisan jab to the ribs (or even more painfully, sometimes by your supporters.)
It would be a mistake to assume any sense of goodwill and comity will overwhelm the toxic partisanship that has flooded our political swamplands over so many decades. It is going to take a few more hits, losses, and diversions to reverse such a trend. In this way, supporters of free and open government information ought to take the long view and realize that it will take at least eight more years to undo the damage done by the Bush administrations to the nation’s robust exchange of public and civic information. As I said in an earlier blog post, if Obama is still President for those two terms, we at least have an executive officer who shares our rhetoric of democratic access to government information. Whether he will be able to hold fast against the entrenched institutional interests that resist this kind of free flow of information (too expensive, to hard, too threatening, too much a security risk) remains to be seen.
To this end, any of the near future plans from our various professional association discussions and study efforts must rise above the politcal tides that flow through the civic structures every two and four years. Just as there is a concepts of a “deep environment” argues for a perspective and planning structure that anticipates long term effects and relationships, so too there could be a concept of “deep civic information” that transcends the political life cycles of our national and state elections. This lesson was brought home again here in Illinois when our barely week old new Governor, and the newly elected leadership of the General Assembly, woke up to realize that they must now deal with a 9 billion dollar budget shortfall, state institutions that are either broken, obscure, or corrupted by indifference or political influence.
If librarians are going to salvage anything from this political train wreck, it will be a way to connect the governors and those they serve with those flows of public information that matter more than the politics.
See you on Day 17.