If Abraham Lincoln were stumping for a Senate seat in the 2010 midterm elections, I have a hunch he'd put a special spin on his Gettysburg speech - starting with something like:
Foursquare and 7 months from now, our politicians will bring forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Personal Branding, and dedicated to the proposition that all tweets are created equal.
If you're plugged in at all to the social media scene, then you know what I'm talking about - prospective political candidates are using the full force of digital weapons to blast out their campaign promises. Forget the bull horn or microphone. This year will set a new high-water mark for campaign propaganda as we're flooded with web-based, political paraphernalia.
Don't get me wrong - there is a significant value to using social media as a transparent, low-cost way to sustain a campaign, especially for local candidates like Ari Herzog or lesser-known candidates such as Adriel Hampton, who staged a highly respectable run last fall relying on social media to stand toe-to-toe with well-funded opponents.
Then there are tools like Foursquare that can be used to show a day in the life of a candidate as s/he checks in at stops along the trail to "illustrate [a candidate's] commitment to visit all constituents." One of the unexpected but valuable results of using Foursquare is the "promotion of locally-owned, small businesses" while the candidate moves from venue to venue. In fact, candidates could sponsor a badge on Foursquare or reward loyal volunteers for checking in at campaign headquarters and attending multiple rallies.
Oh, and you can learn how to use LinkedIn for your campaign from the folks at Killer Campaigning.
But how long will citizens endure this onslaught of Facebook status updates and the barrage of 140-character messages on Twitter without asking along with John Moore: "Will politicians ever truly engage on social media?"
Maybe 2010 really will be the year that politicians pollute the web.
All I know is that I hope that our legislators take a look at their counterparts in the executive branch, who are sincerely striving to use social media and mobile technology in innovative ways in a sincere effort to engage citizens in the process of governance.
Take it from our friends Down Under, who just completed their campaign season. Here's what Steve Davies, a civil servant in the Australian government had to say about their recent elections:
One thing that has shone through in this election campaign is that people are sick and tired of spin, negative campaigns and the behaviour of many politicians. Trawling through the media it seems pretty obvious that people expect more...I do not think Politics 2.0 should just be about using social media as another advertising battle ground and neither do I think it is just about encouraging online participation. Rather, I think it is about changing the behaviour of politicians and political parties.
Steve offers some great ideas, such as a "Charter of Professional Political Conduct" or a "framework that ensures the objective and transparent communication of policy."
Why not let the citizens assist in crafting these documents?
Let the citizens write a "Government 2.0 Address" that seeks to put an end to this web-based war of words that typifies political discourse and restores a sense of civility in our democratic process.
And let's do it so that Lincoln's hope that a "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."