Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We Need a Yelp for Politicians, with Comments and Ratings!

My latest piece on Zocalo Public Square is up. 

Here is the first bit:

Yelp is a wildly popular web service that allows customers to offer public reviews of the companies and professionals they patronize. Diners rate restaurants, patients rate their doctors, dentists, and health clinics, and shoppers rate their malls. But, at least so far, Yelp does not allow constituents to rate their politicians.
That should change. We all need more feedback on those who represent, or seek to represent, us. Since Americans are, for the most part, in between campaigns, now is the perfect time to build out a website to provide the public with something almost unheard of—useful information about politicians.
Modern campaigns are dominated by less-than-helpful advertisements. In the run-up to elections, our televisions and radios carry ads extolling the virtues, or warning of the vices, of our candidates. Our mailboxes, both real and virtual, brim with mailers explaining why we absolutely must not, under any circumstances, vote for a particular candidate. But very few of these campaign missives contain independent, factual information; campaigns, after all, aim primarily to get you to go to the polls, not to undertake a searching review of candidates.
This lack of helpful, substantive information leaves an ill-informed electorate grasping for answers. What is the solution? Here is one suggestion. Let’s create a dynamic website that would allow us to review our politicians based on a number of objective factors. And unlike well-intentioned but snoozy websites (I’m looking at you, League of Women Voters) that provide constituents with information on politicians, let’s promote a robust comment and ranking system.

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