Choice, politics, and the legalization of weed

(Here are the questions I posed this week.)

Steve Berke caught my attention this week and nicely supplemented the social/political discussions we’ve been having. I just read right now that the comedian, running for Miami mayor on behalf of what he dubbed the After Party, failed to secure many votes. The current mayor kept her seat, winning by a large margin.

His platform was, from what I can tell, largely based on YouTube videos. He was perhaps looking for a Conan-style takeover. I have two responses to this. First, let me quickly address something that’s come up before in Internet/political discussions. Check out the lyrics to one of his YouTube music videos:

I’ll keep clubs open till 5 for ya
I’ll fight for gay marriage rights for ya
I’ll legalize medicinal weed for ya
I’ll lower taxes indeed for ya

What is with the American obsession with the legalization of marijuana? Why is this the only political issue Internet users want to talk about? Is it perhaps that every other issue is too serious, too personal, and/or too insurmountably divisive that it doesn’t appeal to the people raised in the age of parody, snark and cynicism?

I wonder if it’s indicative of the attitude the Internet generation has taken toward politics. Which leads into my next, more general observation about Internet politics. In politics more than anywhere, it often seems like people, like Steve, regularly mishandle the possibilities/opportunities on the Internet. No one knows what works. I might even go so far as to say we didn’t know what was working about Obama’s campaign until it was over. And “what’s hot” changes so quickly, it’s hard to apply what strategists learned from Obama for the atmosphere in 2012.

A few trends do continue but I’m not sure we’re settled on how to deal with and properly react to those. A big one is transparency.

As the reading suggested, the transparency afforded by the Internet offers some benefits, or at least some game changing. People are attracted to transparency. It’s something United States (and apparently British and French) politics have arguably been somewhat lacking. Politics has the reputation of keeping things secret and dirty. But have any new super-transparent individuals helped make things better? Have we started weeding out the dirty politics preemptively because we have seen what the repercussions of nondisclosure have been? I’m not sure that we have…In the case of Steve Berke, people said, ‘No, thanks. You might be funny, but we don’t want you to be in charge.’ Maybe they even found him to be too honest?

I also often wonder if maybe there are too many options for possible benefits of conducting politics in the digital age. (I think someone wrote a book about that once. Yep.) There are too many uses of the Internet and it’s overwhelming. And at least in my own life, feeling overwhelmed has a high risk of resulting in frustration-induced inaction.

I think there’s a similar feeling of caring but being overwhelmed by choice in politics at large. We voted for Obama. We saw a new message of difference, change and hope. But politics functioned pretty much the same. Again with the difference of transparency. So we are forced to face that our politics aren’t working. And people like Steve try to take advantage of that. And so far have failed.

So to answer my question, I don’t know how the Internet will be used in 2012. All these pieces have been laid out in the open and I can’t see a fresh, more effective way to put them back together. Iceland did. I think. Not sure how that’s going for them.

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