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Putting Politicians First?

An interesting post on the Official Google Blog called “More Tools for Citizen Participation” says:

Political participation isn’t just about casting your vote; everyone should be able to become an informed participant instantly. When Americans want to learn about candidates and issues using Google, we find that they want more than one source, and immediate results. Instead of sitting through entire television broadcasts, voters are going online to get their daily dose of politics – as they did during the primaries, when searches for political queries spiked.

The piece links to a map showing search queries for the presidential candidates.

It’s true that television lacks the depth people need to become informed citizens, and people are going online to get what they need to know, but I’m not sure who expects to be informed “instantly.” It takes time and some work. The political process would be quite different if it were that easy to gather and distribute the most relevant information about political candidates.

More importantly, though, I think the focus on politicians in most of the tools Google is pointing to is just a little bit beside the point. During campaign time, we get a lot of biography and a lot of promises, but what happens when election season ends and our attention wanes? Back in 2006, we pointed out that they spend enough money to buy every American family a new car.

Rather than following politicians, it would be good to know what is happening with our nation’s public policies. (Needless to say, that’s what we focus on here at WashingtonWatch.com, where you can track the newest bills in Congress, for example – in your browser or your RSS reader.) Maybe policy should animate our inquiries about politicians, rather than putting politicians first.

The toys they’ve put together are interesting, of course – and there’s nothing wrong at all with studying politicians. Here, for example, is a fun biography of Barack Obama:

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[...] on the heels of saying that politicians don’t matter much, here are my thoughts on a particular politician. Former Republican North Carolina Senator Jesse [...]

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[...] Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet that’ll fix that any time soon. (Recall that I found it unusual for a Google Blog post to say that “everyone should be able to become an informed participant [...]

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