Patrick-Murray's Transition Web Site

One of the questions that’s always bothered me is why candidates who use the Internet to get elected seem to use the Internet much less effectively as they are governing. Deval Patrick, governor-elect in Massachusetts, and Tim Murray, the lieutenant governor-elect, are off to the right start in this regard. They’ve established a transition web site to collect ideas (and CVs) from those interested in participating in a new state administration. Here’s hoping this trend continues.

The Day After: Got Democracy?

Confetti is still being swept up from the halls of Democratic victory parties across the country. In Massachusetts, the celebration has been a long time in coming. The election of Deval Patrick as governor — a first of several important kinds — is a shot in the arm to those tired of a state managed by Republican governors since Michael Dukakis left office a decade and a half ago. And the US House, now to be run by US Rep. Nancy Pelosi, it seems.

So: did the use of the Internet have much to do with the process or the outcome of the 2006 election cycle?

John Bracken replies to my question of yesterday about the changing (?) nature of politics in the era of the Internet(s): “Two years later, is there evidence that we are more energized, are there signs of semiotic democracy? Certainly, the war, Katrina and corruption scandals may have energized liberal voters, but I don’t attribute much of that energy to the internet. I suspect that the election news junkies among us would be just as junkified, with or without the Internets. I am reminded by frequent exhortations by a non-blogging, a labor organizer friend that shoe leather on-the-ground is more important than bloggers and bits. I’ve argued this over with him several times, but some of tonight’s results may bear him out. (As of this writing, certain bloggers are notably quiet on Lamont’s apparent loss– or saying such claims are merely an “MSM” thing.) But what does the research bear out? Yes, we can use information ourselves when we can access it and there are some cool tools for covering the poltical process and actual voting. But has our ability to maintain ‘a more active relationship with information’ changed the way our governments do their work and deliver services? Not yet, not from where I sit.”

I’m inclined to agree with John (admittedly, I ordinarily do). His argument is well-framed. But a few things I see slightly differently:

– The main addendum I’d make is to point to the use of Internet as empowering the grassroots not just to chatter and to provide information to voters, but also to organize itself and to be trusted to carry the campaign’s water effectively. There’s no doubt that the extraordinarily energetic, well-run Deval Patrick campaign was the most effective of any campaign for governor at using Internet for organizing, productivity-enhancement, fundraising, and messaging of any of the candidates in the race, start to finish. The back-end tools that were provided to volunteer organizers were terrific. The campaign was highly decentralized. The leadership of the campaign is to be congratulated for trusting the base — the grassroots — that got the campaign through the rough primary and powered the overwhelming victory in the general election over Kerry Healey. You might in fact think of many of the bloggers on the left as volunteers working independently of the campaign. Massachusetts has Blue Mass Group, with 3 leaders and 2000+ members, as well as a range of locally-focused bloggers who kept up the conversation in remarkable fashion over the past two years. They provided an authentic set of voices telling, by and large, the pro-Patrick story throughout the primary and the general. Better to have the online crowd on your side than not, at a minimum.

– I’d add to this productivity point also the fundraising power of the Net to raise small contributions — key, I think, in the primary here in Massachusetts, where Gov.-elect Patrick’s opponents were better funded from the start and small contributions kept him on the air and in the mix — and also the ability of certain bloggers to amplify the positive messages of the campaign and to draw voters into the process.

– The last particularly cool thing I’d note about the Patrick campaign was the use of When I first saw his convention ad, with an amazingly powerful soundtrack, I was pretty certain he’d be the next governor. I’d be interested to know how many people saw that video — on the web as well as on the campaign trail, at the convention, at the inspiring Boston Common rally during the general election — and what impact the campaign thought it had. If you are wondering why he won, just click here and play the ad.

– All that said: I suspect that the strongest reasons for the overwhelming Patrick victory were the charisma, leadership, and energy of the candidate himself; a serious shoe-leather campaign throughout the state to talk to people face-to-face, make what’s thought to be a record number of GOTV calls; and a well-run classical campaign.

The bottom-line answer to Bracken’s comment still hangs in the balance. Will the way our leaders govern be any different? It seems to me possibly more important what happens next. I have every faith that Mr. Patrick will trust the same grassroots — those he celebrated and led to victory last night — as governor, just as he did as a candidate. How that makes him a better governor, and Rep. Pelosi a better speaker, and so forth, seems to me the primary open issue.

(A side note: the Healey campaign has got to go down in history as one of the nastiest, race-baiting, Willie Horton-invoking campaigns in our state’s modern history. It was awful. Someone should preserve her TV ads as a prime example of going way, way over all manner of lines of decency, taste, tact, and citizenship. I am not sorry to see those ads off the air forever.)

Bravo to everyone who took advantage of the cool new tools to post, comment, and otherwise get their hands dirty in the citizen’s conversation during election 2006!

Happy Election Day, and Come Blog the Vote at Berkman with BMG and others!

We’re delighted to welcome anyone blogging the vote today at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. The Blue Mass Group team have taken us up on it, live and in person, along with others swinging by, which is terrific.  Seth Flaxman of Demapples was here until he had class. Anyone and everyone of any political stripe is welcome. Just bring your laptop and we’ll provide the wifi and some things to eat and drink. Our address is 23 Everett Street in Cambridge, on the north side of the Harvard Law School campus. It’s a yellow-frame house. We’re up on the second floor. A map is here.

Each election day makes me rethink a hypothesis from 2004 on Internet & politics. There’s no doubt that more people are getting involved in politics through Internet activism than in previous cycles. The outstanding question, it seems to me, is whether or not Internet is making a difference in the political process. I’m inclined to say it is. And seeing those who are live-blogging the election here makes that case pretty clearly to me, anyway.

Our friends at the Center for Citizens Media and Stanford Law School have released an Election Guide for Bloggers, just in time to be useful.

Celebrating Those Who Blog the Vote

This afternoon, we’re welcoming all those who are covering the 2006 Massachusetts campaign cycle to a reception in your honor at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. The reception, totally informal, will run from probably 5 – 6:30 p.m. or so at 23 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA. No matter if you’re for Healey/Hillman or Patrick/Murray, or if you want yes or no on 1, 2, or 3, of if you’re still undecided, please join us!   To contact the Berkman Center, click here.

Negative campaigning, one step (way) too far

Deval Patrick, the front-running candidate for governor of Massachusetts (and my preferred candidate), sent out a blast e-mail just now that detailed a nightmare that his sister went through with her husband. Mr. Patrick argues that his opponent, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, has made this issue a public one in the context of the gubernatorial campaign.

“My sister and her husband went through a difficult time, and through hard work and prayer, they repaired their relationship and their lives. Now they and their children — who knew nothing of this — have had their family history laid out on the pages of a newspaper. Why? For no other reason than that they had the bad luck to have a relative who is running for governor. It’s pathetic and it’s wrong. By no rules of common decency should their private struggles become a public issue.”

If true, I couldn’t agree more.  (Healey says it’s not true.)  Somebody, no doubt antagonistic to Mr. Patrick, leaked this story.  The general point still stands: there are already too many disincentives to entering public life in America, particularly through the electoral process.

As a related matter, the Lieutenant Governor has made an issue of the fact that Mr. Patrick’s running mate, Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, defended acccused sex offenders as a defense attorney. As the AP reported, “On Friday, Healey opened a fresh line of attack, criticizing Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and Patrick’s running mate, for handling appeals of people challenging their classification by the Sex Offender Registry Board. Murray is a defense attorney, but he said he took some of the cases at the request of the court. ‘I know that the court needs people to take these cases, and that it’s part of our adversarial system,’ Healey said. ‘The question is, simply, ‘Is that the priority that you want to have your next governor and lieutenant governor to have?'”

The Lieutenant Governor’s posture on this issue is almost as maddening as the possible leak of a Patrick family matter. Should helping people defend their Consitutional rights, whether or not they are guilty, disqualify someone from holding state office? Again, what an irresponsible assault on what it means to be a public servant.

Why I'm voting for Chris Gabrieli today for Governor

The great news for Democrats in Massachusetts, and Independents too for that matter, is that there are three different, strong choices for a nominee for governor in this year’s race. Despite the strength of the Democratic field, the choice, to me, is not hard. I consider it my great good fortune to have gotten to know Chris Gabrieli. I think he’d make an amazing governor. I’m voting for him later today when the polls open.

A few specific reasons:

– I think Chris is right on many of the key issues. His position on the state income tax strikes me as right on: we should roll it back ONLY if there’s a surplus, meaning that local aid is not eviscerated in the process. His Cape Wind stance is right on both process and substance. His views on energy policy are by far the most detailed and persuasive of any candidate. He’s on the right side of the gay marriage debate (and the right side of history). His stem-cell proposal makes sense. In addition to being right on the merits, I think he’s well-positioned to beat Kerry Healey and Christy Mihos in November.

– Chris will attract people into state government who would not have entered public service otherwise. He’s the kind of person who can talk people into joining a team and pulling hard to achieve results. He takes an interest in people and has a talent for putting together the right team for a job. The state would an influx of talent in a Gabrieli administration.

– Chris has devoted himself to improving education in our state. Since he retired from venture capital, he has poured himself (along with Jennifer Davis and other great people) into creating Mass2020, a truly extraordinary foundation in Massachusetts that supports the expansion of educational and economic opportunities for kids in this state. He’s personally invested millions in after-school-related work and leveraged tens of millions more. it’s through his work that cities and towns in Massachusetts are now experimenting with longer school days to keep kids engaged and out of trouble. (I am proud to serve on the board of Mass2020.)

Chris Gabrieli is a fine man. He’s a leader, a visionary, and a committed public servant. Despite his extraordinary success in many facets of life, he’s a genuine, decent, loyal, humble person. He can also be a totally geeky policy wonk, which I think is a great trait in a governor. For the first time in more than a decade, we’d have a full-time, dedicated governor, without designs on some other job. Chris Gabrieli will get the job done well.

Deval Patrick is pretty extraordinary, too. He’s run a very positive campaign, brought a lot of people into the political process, and run a campaign on the idea of Hope. His channel was a terrific idea, among other intriguing uses of the Internet (and he no doubt picked up support via the highly readable, active blogging of Blue Mass Group). While Chris Gabrieli is my first choice, if Mr. Patrick were to become governor, I’d be excited for the future of our Commonwealth.

For Lieutenant Governor, I’m voting for Deborah Goldberg. She’s terrific — like Chris, I believe she’s committed to the public service for the right reasons. She would be an effective advocate for the cities and towns of Massachusetts. I like her position on climate change, which she’s made a central plank of her campaign platform. I held a sign for Deborah during her very first campaign for selectwoman in Brookline. I’ll be pulling the lever for her at polls today.

Open Standards in Massachusetts: Summary of Remarks

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is making history by considering a policy that would ensure the long-term integrity of our data. The importance of this process cannot be overstated. The implications of a policy that supports the development and implementation of open standards, if done right, would have substantial positive implications over the long run, here in the Commonwealth but also in other states and countries around the world. The Commonwealth’s leadership in this area could establish a model for others to follow, as it has so many times before on so many issues.

Several things are at stake in the move to such a policy:

* Interoperability: Creating and maintaining an open information ecosystem that achieves interoperability between computing environments, applications, and sources of data – whether created last year or 25 years from now – is the primary motivation for moving to an open standards policy.

* Access and Control: Ensuring that citizens and the state have access to our data and the ability to control our data long into the future, grounded in the knowledge that electronic data is becoming more and more important. It’s about the users — in the parlance of the states, the citizens — after all.

* Choice and Cost: Establishing a truly open standard can ensure that the Commonwealth, over the long-term, has the greatest range of technology choices and the lowest technology costs through competition. An open policy is not one that results in lock-in to a single technology vendor, nor one that precludes any vendor – which may be the most competitive – from participating.

* Innovation: Promoting the continued innovation in information technology, on Rte. 128, in university computer science labs, and in garages throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, supporting economic development in the process.
If there is any single concept that encompasses these themes, it is generativity, the policy prescription that my colleague Jonathan Zittrain calls for in his new paper, The Generative Internet.
A policy for the Commonwealth that supports open standards, if properly conceived and implemented, can help to achieve these goals. To get there, the legislature and the executive branch have a hard job.

That job is not to choose between competing technology vendors, circa 2005, in a fast-changing marketplace. The elephant in the room is the struggle between Microsoft on the one hand and IBM and Sun on the other. But that struggle is not, and cannot be, the real story on open standards policy. It’s essential to bear in mind the state’s proper role vis-a-vis this marketplace — a marketplace which may in fact establish, and re-establish, other open standards over time, all plausibly based off of the same concept of XML. Consider, for instance, the “web 2.0” version of this discussion and witness the dramatic changes in the syndicated technologies space — with RSS, Atom, OPML, the MetaWeblog API, and their ilk over the past few years — which, to all but a few visionaries, were unthinkable as possible “open document formats” a short while ago. The key is to ensure enough flexibility in the process so that those who know the technologies and the implications of any changes can help the state to adjust its approach on the fly as progress, inevitably, marches on — and such that citizens, or users, are not the ones left behind in the long-run.

Information technologies are increasingly important to our democracy. A policy that seeks to ensure a citizen’s access to information and a citizen’s ability to transform data with as few constraints by those who make technology as possible is a worthy one. These goals should not be pursued by the state without the active involvement of the technical community; the legislator needs to get to know the technology developer, and those who set technology standards, much more intimately if the state is going to play in this game.

The question before the Commonwealth today is not whether to strive for such lofty goals, but rather how to meet the challenge of crafting and implementing a policy that will in fact achieve them over the long run. If the Commonwealth gets this policy right, others will follow. If the Commonwealth gets this right, it will be good not only for our state’s economy but also for our democracy.
Summary of Remarks at An Open Forum on the Future of Electronic Data Formats for the Commonwealth, December 14, 2005 at the Massachusetts State House

John G. Palfrey, Jr.
Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Sins of Omission in a Globe op-ed

I probably should have known better, but in devoting 750 words to an op-ed in the Boston Globe about the special election in Somerville, Medford, Winchester, and Woburn, I managed tomake a few sins of omission.

The primary things that were left on the cutting room floor, but should not have been, are twofold:

* I should no doubt have found a way to include also arguably the most prominent Democratic blogging site, Blue Mass. Group, which had a great deal of terrific coverage of, and associated commentary about, the race, recapped here. I chose one independent blogger, Frederick Clarkson, whose commentary I followed in the special election, and whose efforts merited inclusion — but so too did the efforts of several others, most notably Blue Mass. Group. So, apologies to the many others (including sco) who blogged or commented on the race and whose contributions I did not call out. The point was just to celebrate the conversation that this group of people has been involved in and to urge politicians to engage more deeply and effectively with it.

* A few people wrote to me to say that I should have mentioned that former Rep. Joe Mackey also had a website. I see their point: my op-ed, with trimmed words a bit too carefully chosen, implied that only Pat Jehlen had a website and that her three opponents did not. That wasn’t my point. I was making the argument that a “simple search” (try this, or this, for instance, which may change, and probably will — even by virtue of my own links and those of others, that will drive up his site’s PageRank) in Google turned up only Rep. Jehlen’s site, which is true. I actually made a few other simple searches, which also did not turn up former Rep. Mackey’s site. My searches included a search string “Joe Mackey State Senate” which would seem to be well-targeted to retrieve his site. Rep. Mackey did indeed have one, and surely he and his supporters deserve credit for it. My point was only to say that a casual observer, as most voters are for most elections, who went online to find out information about the race would most likely have found most information about Rep. Jehlen, and much less about the three other (quite strong) candidates for state Senate. Apologies, too, for misleading some readers.

(Score another one for having a blog in addition to a mainstream press: being able to admit to such sins and having a place to set out the record a bit more clearly, if only in retrospect.)

Voting for Pat Jehlen for State Senate today

This morning, I cast the 108th ballot in a special election for State Senator at the Dilboy VFW Post in Davis Square, Somerville. Despite a sprinkling rain and the low turnout, the streets outside my polling place were crawling with people holding signs — a wonderful sign of a vibrant local democracy. I got a flyer about keep a divestment measure off the November ballot and saw signs for each of the four candidates — Michael Callahan (Governor’s Councilor), Paul Casey (current state rep, who opposes gay marriage, which knocks him out of the running for me), Patricia Jehlen (current state rep), and Joe Mackey (former state rep).

I cast my ballot for Pat Jehlen. Each of the Democratic candidates (yes, so disclosed, I am a Massachusetts Democrat) in this special election strike me as well-qualified. I am voting for Rep. Jehlen primarily because she, or rather her team, has made the effort to connect with me. I have lived in her district, right on the Somerville/Cambridge line, for the last four or five years, and I’ve enjoyed getting her e-mails to constituents; on the one occasion I’ve contacted her staff they’ve been responsive to my issue; and during the past few frantic months of the campaign, a few door-knockers have rung our bell, including a friend from the political world, Christa Kelleher, a professor and long-time political activist. They hung a “get out the vote” flyer on my doorknob last night. None of the other candidates reached out nearly so successfully. I give Rep. Jehlen a lot of credit for doing the blocking-and-tackling of good old fashioned campaigning both during her term as State Rep and as candidate for the State Senate. (And, of course, her record on the issues is good, too. I like in particular her stances on education, health care, and the environment, on which she has been a leader for many years.)

Every Election Day rocks, on some level. This particular election is tinged with the sadness of the death of former State Senator Charles Shannon. What a privilege to be able to choose his successor in a well-contested election.