Online Politics: A Post-Mortem

The elections of 2000 were touted as a coming-out party for politics on the internet. Websites with names like Voter, Speakout, Vote, Grassroots, and Votenet promised to revolutionize politics, gushing hype and dreamy, feel-good mission statements about "using the Internet to promote a more active and informed electorate" and "enabling citizens and their representatives to affect positive, democratic change." After the confetti has settled, howeer, it is painfully clear that online politics was as badly oversold as the rest of the internet. Several high profile sites have closed shop, and those that remain are desperately seeking revenue. "Having failed to make a buck by trying to fix politics, the portals may yet succeed--by making the problem worse," writes Martin Edlund. "Speakout's online dial-polling will let politicians pander to voters with ever-greater efficiency, pleasing more people while saying even less--something that is not likely to ignite America's interest in politics. Speakout still bills itself as 'the place to go to make a difference.' But actions speak out louder than words."