At Large: Now that's what I call democracy

At Large: Now that's what I call democracy

Up on his feet and out in the streets, Matthew JC. Powell is singing Power to the people . . .

I don't think I have a high enough profile in ARN. One page stuck in the middle with a piddly little photo, it's clearly insufficient. I think I might start up my own magazine, and call it "Powell". I might even feature myself and my close buddies on the cover from time to time.

I've been put in mind of this by a story I read about the publisher of Forbes magazine, an engaging chappie by the name of Malcolm Forbes Jr, known to his close friends as Steve. Steve Forbes is, as I write this, launching his campaign for the Presidency of the United States on his Web site. You may ask yourselves, as I did initially, why anyone would want the Presidency of the United States. It's a good question, but not one this column will dwell on.

As an aside, I knew in advance that Steve would be announcing his run for the Presidency on his Web site because he issued a press release the day before, which said that he would be making the announcement on Tuesday morning. Clearly, he's not relying too heavily on the element of surprise.

Anyway, I note that all of the people who have, to date, announced their intent to run for President next year have Web sites, including Pat Buchanan and J. Danforth Quayle. That's Quayle, with an "e", like in potatoe. It seems it's a necessity for candidates in next year's poll to appear progressive, even if they are, in reality, conservative.

Steve is the only one, however, who claims to be running his campaign on the Internet. Quite what that means, and how it differs from just having a Web site and running an ordinarycampaign will become clearer in the next few months, I guess. I'm not sure how you would frame a Java applet to shake hands and kiss babies, but I realise the consequences of an error could be catastrophic. What is clear is that Steve thinks the time has come for electioneering to move online, and enough people agree with him that he's being taken seriously.

I recall the first time Ross Perot ran for the same office, and put forward his grand vision of a people's democracy, where every major issue would go to a popular vote through "electronic town halls". He was ridiculed at the time, and only rightly since he was a total fruit-loop. But clearly the idea is gathering support.

How long will it be before not only the campaigns, but the elections themselves, are conducted online? No more futzing about with multiple massive printouts of electoral rolls at polling booths all over the countryside - anywhere you can log in is a polling booth, and your name is on one roll, held on one server. No more metre-long ballot papers with 264 names on them. Easier to vote, easier to count.

And why stop at elections every three to four years? Why can't the people have a say on the matters that count, even as they happen? Haven't we all been frustrated by the amount of time it takes the "third umpire" to make decisions in cricket matches? Haven't we all disagreed with their findings at least once? Here's a flash: they're watching exactly the same video replay that we're watching. Why can't we, the people, push a button to say "Out" or "Safe"? Why are we less qualified than they?

You may argue that this would contribute to something of a home-ground advantage. Fair enough. But what about a sport where no one has any clear vested interest in the outcome, and a spirit of fair play is pervasive amongst spectators? Couldn't we then be trusted to make a fair and unbiased judgement on disputed calls.

Take, for example, the grand old tradition of horse racing - the Sport of Kings and so forth. A sport so incorruptible that it is synonymous with all that is fair and good. Recently, a horse called Tie The Knot was robbed of its victory in the Ranvet Stakes, thanks to the limited vision of a few blinkered officials who felt that its rider had violated some "rule" or other. It's been more than 10 years since a horse in a Group 1 race has been so robbed, and as you can imagine, there was outcry.

If the punters (and I use the term advisedly) watching the race in TABs and clubs all over the nation had been allowed to cast their votes, I suspect the result would have been different. Can we not trust our citizens, when presented with the question of whether or not the race had been fairly won, to say objectively "yea" or "nay"?

The true Internet revolution is coming. It's only a matter of time.

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