Friday Fill(ibuster): Media, maps and midterms

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Political News Friday, November 07, 2014 View Count = 1315

Friday Fill(ibuster): Media, maps and midterms






The above image makes clear that we're starting with some literal levity from the American midterm elections. Huffington Post shares the funniest photos from Election Day while CP’s Washington correspondent Alexander Panetta offers the down low on what the Republican sweep in midterms means, particularly for Canada. Hint: pipelines and trade deals. And hip-hop star Lil’ Jon, who made waves with his Rock the Vote video earlier in the campaign, took an unorthodox route to his polling station: a private jet.



Speaking of getting the vote out, a piece in The Upshot takes on the popular assumption that low voter turnout is by definition bad news for democracy: “one type of nonvoter provides a silver lining in the otherwise gloomy state of affairs. These people, whom I call sporadic voters, don’t apathetically sit out all elections. They fail to go to the polls sometimes but do go at other times, presumably when they perceive the stakes to be high. And unlike apathetic nonvoters who undermine democracy, sporadic voters may actually bolster it. In fact, recent behavioral research suggests that this group may provide a reservoir of neutrality that can help keep democracy from going astray.”

But there’s scarcely a silver lining to the midterm campaigns according to the CBC’s chief Washington correspondent, Neil MacDonald. He points to the miserably low level of debate in the recent elections and shows how a grim side of contemporary American democracy was on display: “In U.S. politics, the people are the boss, and the boss is consulted every two years and the boss can be a dunce. The boss sometimes fires good employees on a whim, often prefers nasty to smart and can evince little interest in bothersome facts. The boss loves uncomplicated aphorisms designed to free him/her from the civic burden of considering complex solutions. I just spent a few days in Kentucky speaking to the boss. It’s impossible to do that and not feel sorry for the people campaigning.”

Other electoral idiosyncrasies showed up north of the border in last week’s Toronto municipal elections. A casual investigation in Spacing Toronto shows that an alarming number of people vote randomly for at least one of their representatives: “Overall, it seems maybe a quarter of voters go to the polls with no idea about who they want to vote for as their school trustee. Roughly half of these choose not to vote at all, and the other half vote randomly.” Yikes.

And Samara amigo Vas Bednar had a piece in the Globe last week explaining another form of weirdness in recent Canadian elections: a troubling trend towards incumbency. She astutely observes that, after “a grueling 10-month writ, Toronto city hall is neither refreshed nor particularly refreshing – a paltry seven seats out of 44 have new faces and in only one instance did an incoming councillor beat an incumbent. Moreover, all three leading mayoral candidates were already well-known public figures with established and sophisticated networks before throwing their hats in the ring. As a citizenry, we haven’t voted for our peers; instead, we’ve elevated professional politicians and confirmed their superiority relative to the average Joe.”

Plus, one of the most insightful voices over at the Star does her best Marshall McLuhan impression with a piece about the difference between social media when it comes to personal and political expression. When does content slide from Facebook to Twitter and back again? What does each medium do to the message that it is meant to be carrying. Susan Delacourt artfully answers.

Technology and politics are crossing paths elsewhere, too. Democracy Link is an app that promises to better connect citizens with their elected representatives—and it could use your help.

But maybe even an app that makes the connection for you requires more work than you can handle; one American organization will have activists call representatives on your behalf for a fee. This might mean equal measures of outsourcing your political voice and amplifying it.

Does the elimination of the per-vote subsidy turn the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois into endangered species? Jason Fekete at the Citizen shows how much public party financing matters to the smaller political parties in Canada. Also from the ​Citizen, will the Canadian Senate again send piece of union transparency legislation back to the House of Commons that they have previously rejected? Paradoxical questions about democracy swirl around what some are calling a parliamentary Groundhog Day, as the Senate prepares to flex its legislative muscle once again.

And our EPCitizen project has closed its nominations, with jury deliberations starting this week! We’ve got some remarkable nominations amongst the 350, including a boggling set of six from MP Don Davies. You can check out the whole batch by looking at the map here.

Speaking of maps and finishing this thing off the way we started, the American midterms saw an unprecedented application of social media data to the tracking of issues that were on the minds of voters: “Since July, more than 20 million Facebook users added posts, comments and other messages about this week's elections. The social media company analyzed the data, placed the messages into categories and shared the findings with The Wall Street Journal.” Check out the terrain right here and catch you next week!

(photo cred: HuffPo)

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