Thursday, June 14, 2012

False Sense of Access (Thursday LINKS)

When I was in law school, I took a seminar course called "Community Organizing and Public Discourse".  It was one of those classes that, should I ever be subject to national scrutiny, would paint me as a domestic subversive and/or terrorist, whereas in reality, it was a lot more about how people interact with their government (in a repetitive and boring way).  Community Organizing is something that I still have a hard time getting my head around, as may be obvious from the semi-annual hand-wringing amongst these pages.  What inspires people power?  How can it be fostered?  What makes for successful execution?

One of the last days of class, we were discussing whether unorganized non-institutional groups have any chance at being heard at the National level, or whether those interests require sub-existence within another established interest group.  A contemporary example would be groups that oppose domestic fracking.  Could they be heard independently or do they require partnership with a larger environmental group that has already created its doorways to sympathetic lawmakers?  Our cynical and pessimistic view was that the players of the game have been, for the most part, set.  Dynamic changes in societal interests may sprout new groups, but they will be the exception.

We then came to the near laughable question of whether an individual had any chance to be heard on National issues (we were a cynical bunch of 3L's).  We noted all of the levels of constituent services, weighed the value of campaign contribution to create access, and considered an individual's demographic representation of a larger constituency and whether that would influence legislative action.  We concluded that one of the most dangerous aspects of a democratic republic (happy now?) was that it gave individual citizens a false sense of access to the legislative process.  If I think I am participating, I may be disinclined to activate that "true people power" described above.  If I feel I'm being heard, I will keep this between you and I.

I think we see a different form of this in today's "slacktivism" (WB -- watch out for this word as a "word of the year").  Even though it has only been five years since graduation, I feel as if my generation has pulled even further away from the idea that we can participate in government.  Rather, our political ideas are our own.  Identity politics in its most extreme.  And for whatever reason, from my anecdotal experience, we don't seem interested in conveying those opinions onto elected officials so long as our 535 "friends" know that we don't like torture, want to save the whales, and find it hilarious whenever a politician spells something wrong (Welcome to Amercia).

Whatever little dopamine center that releases when we engage in political discourse is apparently satiated with a Facebook post or a Tweet; even more so if it is followed by a comment war.  The instances in which social media has been shown to effect public policy are far outweighed by the number of times social media is used to rant into the darkness.  Every single time I see one of these posts (even from many of you), I feel like posting the question "What are you doing about it?"  (But that would be so pretentious that I am only willing to do so ambiguously on this blog).

One of the reasons I so remember "false sense of access" and spending a full hour talking about it in DC (a mere two miles from the Capitol) was that I was the one that presented those terms.  I'm not a cynical person, but I am cynical about the manner in which we interact with those in power.  This blog is an act of cynicism in that I feel that we are told what to discuss and what is important, as oppose to deciding for ourselves.  We're spoon-fed micro (i.e., criminal trials) and macro (i.e., obesity "epidemic") national issues at such a dizzying rate that is hard to keep a steady head about what actually affects our day to day.  Once we do that, we are encouraged to "post it to Facebook", which is about as effective as reading your concerns out-loud to your cat (I'm just not sure the dog is ready for that kind of heady stuff).

Is it all just a repository?  Is it any wonder that today's dystopian fiction incorporates Facebook?  Should we all consider a new standard by which we are asked to evaluate whether we have acted sufficiently outside of the internet to present a particular political issue as part of our online identity?  Only then may you post your screed on your face.


O's win on the back of a strong outing by struggling starter Jake Arrieta and a broken bat home run from Chris Davis.  Ok, so the latter did not play that big of a role in a 7-1 whuppin', but it was still neat to see...made me very sad/nervous about my forthcoming cable cut-off.

Lindsay McPherson writes that Del. Frank Turner is still no fan of gambling and as we learned last fall, he "carried the water for no man."  This would seem to put him in a difficult position as gambling advocates will expect to see new gambling legislation pushed through the subcommittee he chairs to a full hearing in Special Session.

A group of Baltimore County high school students drew a chalk drawing of a KKK lynching of President Obama on the heels of his visit to Maryland.  While it is tempting to draw larger conclusions about this type of disturbing act (as the reporter seems all too interested in following), I think the most reasonable conclusion is that these were a bunch of white kids posturing for attention.  The only true implication is that we are far from a post-racial society and these kids most likely live in an environment where such abhorrent thoughts are acceptable.

If this Presidential race is going to be "about who raises the most money", Sheldon Adelson's $10 million Super-PAC contribution for Romney will certainly be felt across the Country.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: WB reports back from Jen Terrasa's fundraiser at the Corner Stable, along with the observation that "Courtney wasn’t there because she was also having a Wine Women and Watson event tonight. I don’t know who scheduled what first but HoCo is really too small for two politico fundraisers in the same night."  Scheduling events in Howard County is always a mess.  Thankfully, between CA and...CA, I can just presume that I will not be able to attend.  Last night, I was at our Village Board meeting.

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love!