*This is a rush transcript from American Insights News. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. Statements made herein are completely falsifiable and unproven, as well as pretty ridiculous.
Friday, July 16th, 2010
Proposed bill H.R.5003 stalled in late night talks this Thursday, a potentially disastrous omen for one of the most radical changes to U.S. government since the inception of the Continental Congress. It was near to clearing its final hurdle and ending up on president Obama's desk by this morning, but Senate Republicans threatened to filibuster if a few of their concessions were not met. In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took an excessive amount of time reminding the GOP members that a filibuster was "Totally not cool," and added that he "would have disliked it, if that option were even available."
But Republicans held fast, bringing up the pertinent point that H.R. 5003 might threaten their jobs in Congress. "We like being Senators." argued Richard Lugar, R-Indiana. "The paycheck is awesome, not to mention the lifetime of free healthcare. And have you sat in these chairs lately? They're ergonomic and really freaking sweet." By late Thursday night, Democrats seemed divided, some convinced by Lugar's logic but others citing their inability to come to a decision as the reason why H.R. 5003 was proposed in the first place. Co-sponsored by two obscure House members from districts that no one cares about, the bill managed to escape national attention due to the enormous amount of media coverage on the Health Care debate, and up until recently, the BP oil spill. "It's really amazing how few Americans are paying attention to the issues here, especially this one." Said Senator Levin. "For the first time a bill has been proposed that would completely incorporate the American public into our daily decisions here." In many respects, the senator is right.
We live in an age where politics are undergoing radical changes due to new social aggregation tools. Grassroots movements are easier to organize, information is widely available, and the public stands to learn much about the laws that can affect every aspect of their lives. But the current methods in which politics are carried out precludes most people from participating, or even caring. Nearly 94% of school aged children between the ages of 7 and 12 can't identify their own congressional representatives. "Politics are boring." Says Natalie Winchester, aged 11, of Oak Park, NY. It's not just kids who don't care, but many adults feel the same way. Faith in Washington's ability to accomplish any real work has been declining steadily since 1776. Congress continues to squabble over ideological differences and would rather satisfy the demands of lobbyists over the American public. But this lack of faith, has also translated into a complete apathy for political affairs. "Why would I watch C-span when I can catch up on Glee? Wait hold on, I've got to go update my status." Says Eric Taylor, 35, of New Harmony, Florida. In this age of increasing competition for public attention, it's almost no surprise that American Idol garners more votes than the Presidential elections these days.
But counteracting this startling new wave of apathy is exactly what H.R. 5003 is designed to do. For the first time, it would move the United States Government's Legislative Branch from a bicameral (2 house), to a tricameral (3 house) congress, with the entire population of Facebook making up the seats of this newfound body. Initially, there were concerns about access, that somehow the bill would be discriminatory to poorer Americans who had no internet connection. But proponents were quick to point out that even if someone couldn't afford an internet hookup or a computer, the advent of free WiFi and library computers has made the internet widely within reach. Additionally, the unexpected shutoff of the BP oil leak has left the U.S. with $20 billion dollars in an escrow fund that it doesn't know what to do with. It has since been arranged that the remaining Americans without internet access will be able to get a free computer voucher the same way they could get a free digital converter box for their old analogue TVs. Demand for cheap, inexpensive computers is expected to skyrocket, and reportedly shares of Emachines and Acer have already jumped.
But Facebook stands to gain the most from H.R. 5003, and if passed, it may see its membership double in a few short months. More than half of Americans already have a profile on the site, but admittedly seeing much more of the "other half" join would be a bit of a pipe dream. "Many people simply don't have a Facebook because they're computer illiterate." Says Internet Meme Scientist Rees Sloan. "Getting them away from the AM radio and towards the computer screen is a matter of utilizing connections between family and friends. I highly recommend them picking up the phone, sending a telegraph, or grabbing the old scroll and quill to ask the younger generation to explain these new-fangled Facebook doohickies." He added that Facebook educators could start by comparing the website to a phonebook, an analogy that has worked remarkably well for renowned octogenarian Betty White.
But the biggest changes brought by the bill, even more so than providing internet access to every American who wants it, will be the general public's newfound ability to modulate and vote on proposed laws in the national government. Here's a brief rundown of the potential changes:
- Through a Facebook application, people will be able to instantaneously and decisively affect the fate of ideas in the Senate or the House.
- Occurring much more often than simple referendum, the public will be able to vote on laws by logging on through a secured channel during designated 24 hour voting holidays, which may be announced no later than a week in advance.
- Unlike most applications on facebook, whether a person voted yay or nay will not be public knowledge
- Bills are automatically pushed through to Facebook when either the House or Senate fails to reach an agreement by a specified deadline.
- Congress can also automatically defer a bill to a Facebook vote to gauge the interest and opinions of the American people.
- Not every bill has to gain Facebook approval to pass to the president's desk. But if greater than 50% of the American public reach a consensus of yay or nay on any issue, their voices will override or affirm the action, even a presidential veto.
- Facebook can also be used as a forum for the public to promote ideas. Members can sponsor their own bills, and if greater than 50% of the American public supports it, their idea will reach the force of law.
The technicalities behind a such a voting a system are profound, but Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is confident that his website can successfully serve as a platform to voice American opinions, and potentially change history forever. While some political analysts are pinning H.R. 5003 as the ultimate expression of Democracy, other critics, (essentially just a few members of congress) are predicting complete and utter chaos. One Senator, who wished to remain anonymous, had this to say on the issue: "Electing representatives has always worked out well for America, it just makes sense to allow one person to make decisions that affect millions of people. Why would we want to let each and every person who cares have a voice in the political process? It would be too complicated to let them all click buttons that say either yes or no. The American people need to have more faith in our senators and representatives. Like parents entrusted with looking after wandering children...we'll take care of you."
But the era where one person is charged with making decisions for millions may soon be waning. Could we be be looking at a new age where technology allows each and every person to have a direct vote on the issues that impact their lives? Perhaps, but for now the Bill lies deadlocked, as usual, between a few dozen people who can't seem to agree. H.R. 5003 and the third branch of Congress may never come to life.
*This is of course, complete satire, but behind that is an interesting idea in its infancy, let me know what you think!