On closer examination, certain key problems of our current political system turn out to be based not so much on the shortcomings of our parties or candidates as on changes in the environment in which they must operate.
Perhaps the most significant of these is the difficulty candidates have in getting their messages across to voters.
We live in a media-drenched age of strident and ceaseless clamor for our attention. In such an environment, enormously expensive advertising campaigns are considered essential in order for the public to have even the barest glimmering that a political entity is out there with something to say.
Who is capable of raising the necessary campaign financing? Typically, only those who are already in office, or those who are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to accommodate funding sources. (To the detriment of public policy, these two types of candidates are not mutually exclusive.)
Over the years, many proposals have been put forward to break this stranglehold of incumbency and money on access to the electorate’s attention, and allow fresh viewpoints and more independent voices into the political process. Limiting campaign contributions, providing public campaign funding, and requiring the media to give free time to political candidates are among the options most often discussed.
However, virtually all these proposed courses of action require some form of approval or enactment by the same entrenched and special interest-beholden political entities whose power they would rein in. Not surprisingly, progress has been limited.
Why not consider a different type of approach?
In many other areas of contemporary life, the most dramatic transformations of the power structure have come not from persuading the comfortably ensconced to change their ways, but from somebody on the outside making more intelligent use of an available technology.
There is no reason to consider politics exempt from such forces. To the contrary, more than one application of a recent but already well-established technology to the political process appears to hold considerable promise.