Hear me out now. I love the Internet, but...
I was thinking about the derailment of TransitCity, the very real possibility that Ottawa isn't going to get light rail because of funding and politics and so on, and the extreme difficulty the democrats had pushing through Health Care Reform in the states... and I kinda had a revelation.
Why do we elect politicians? Their fundamental role, if I'm not mistaken, is to act as representatives of the people who elect them. Voters judge a person based on their opinions and values, and once elected, it's pretty much hands off. I hope my MP doesn't have a massive about-face and that he sticks to the moral compass he articulated during the campaign when it comes to decisions on transit, public housing, sewage, and whatever else comes up. If he doesn't, I'll vote someone else in next time.
The internet is not a "check once every 4 years" kinda medium.
And while I can understand that MPs and MPPs and Councillors have always been available to consult with their constituents, I don't think we've ever seen such pressure from third parties to drive that consultation. We've got talking heads on Fox News insisting that you call your congressman to stop health care reform. We've got signs outside Shoppers Drug Mart to fight for that corporation's right (?) to a bigger slab of taxpayer dollars than they deserve because of the kickbacks generic drug manufacturers throw them. We've got letter writing campaigns and phone call campaigns and email campaigns and...
Hold on. Why do we have government in the first place? My opinion, and I'll admit it's just opinion, is that we created government way back when because it wasn't feasible to have every citizen vote on every decision. With the advent of the internet, we can throw a referendum on anything. And yet, I don't want to be hopping online to vote on every budget measure and proposal. And I especially don't want to cede policy decisions to people with nothing better to do than camp the internet to vote on stuff.
Voting once every few years is not a huge burden. Everyone can do it, even if not everyone does. And the people we elect have to occasionally make big decisions involving billions of dollars. But when politicians let the screaming of the time-rich mob dissuade them from sticking to the principles on which they were elected, out of fear of not getting re-elected? The power stops lying with the people, and begins to lie with the people who have the most time to scream and bitch and moan.
And I don't think that's a step in the right direction for democracy.
I'm not suggesting that politicians shouldn't be insulated from their constituents - indeed, if you believe a politician's leaning on an issue runs counter to the principles on which they were elected, say so! But don't confuse "the principles they ran on" with "my personal best interest". Because too many people do. Given the choice, no one wants to pay more taxes, so when the people you elect on the grounds of "improving the city" decide it's worthwhile to expand and improve the transit system and pay for it by hiking your property taxes, you're inclined to scream about it, and a 24-hour news cycle with only 15 hours of news ensures you'll hear about it. But you don't elect people to do whatever you say. If that's all it came down to, we could fire them all and go to internet referendums.
We elect people to exercise their best judgement, based on the values and opinions they put forth during the campaign. I don't think the current environment acts in the best interests of that system.