Ongoing Local Discussion

photo credit: dorineruter

I’ve shared some ideas (and will be doing whatever work I can to see that they get implemented) about how to make caucus meeting accommodations that are better suited to having productive and effective caucus meetings. I realize that having comfortable accommodations does nothing to address the issue of having ill-informed or single issue participants.

I don’t know the numbers (I doubt anyone does) but many people were elected as state delegates this year based solely on their position on the senate race. It’s possible that some of the county delegates were elected based on their positions on one specific race or another. As I pointed out before the caucus meetings, there were at least four races for each of these delegates to vote on in my precinct.

The solution to having informed participation is to have ongoing discussions about politics. I have learned through my years of experience that having a loose community online where people discuss things is not as useful for making a real political difference as having people who share a geographic location which focuses the issues that they deal with. This would require that politics be taken back from among the taboo subjects that are not discussed in polite society.

While having a group that share a geographic identity is important it is also important to allow for asynchronous communications so that people who are not generally available during traditional meeting times can still participate. This is where online discussions are very advantageous. I was very pleased to hear at the convention that there are a number of precincts in Davis County that have created Facebook pages for political discussion in their precinct.

As I discussed this issue with some friends at the convention the issue was raised of anonymity and authentication. Allowing anonymous contributions to the discussion can be valuable but it also opens the door to outsiders manipulating the discussion. I think that a good site for local discussion should allow anonymous comments but also provide a way for those who are local to be authenticated so that the anonymous comments can be treated with the proper weight – representing outside opinions available for consideration but not necessarily representative of a local perspective.

Online discussions should also be augmented with physical meetings with some degree of regularity – every few weeks perhaps, where the discussion could go synchronous and people could get to know each other.

If such discussions were taking place it would be possible for people to be more informed on the issues of current importance and also to be more informed on who they can trust in their area. That would allow people to be informed as caucus participants when the time comes to decide who to vote in as delegates. In fact it would allow them to know not only who they trust, but who they trust on specific issues. I know that in my precinct I was elected as a county delegate even though I was more prepared for the state races and at the same time one of our state delegates was more prepared and informed on the county races and issues than I was.

I’d love to hear what other people think about this. Any experiences you have had or ideas about solutions or potential pitfalls to creating a forum for continuing discussion at a local level.