Over at techPresident this week, Tom Watson wrote about the need for a counterpart to Obama’s change.gov website in Congress. While the presidential transition site is constantly changing and is interactive, allowing for the opportunity for a two-way communication between the president and the American people, the legislative hub — Speaker.gov — is stale.

We speak of Speaker.gov, that overlooked, less-than-slick but chock-a-block wonk’s paradise, laden with bill signings, policy statements, and legislation – the web world of Nancy Pelosi, whose growing control of an expanded Democratic caucus almost certainly makes her digital commons the second most important piece of wired political real estate.

And the Speaker’s territory is already something of a two-way street: as she wrote (in a letter!) this summer during the brief but tangy Capitol Hill Video Standards Brouhaha (well-chronicled here by Dave Witzel) she’s well-versed in social media tools. “Like many other Members, I have a blog, use YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Digg, and other new media to communicate with constituents, and I believe they are vital tools toward increasing transparency and accountability.”

Nonetheless, Pelosi’s blog – The Gavel – is a bit on the staid side. It’s a straight blog with thousands of postings in the last two years but few comments, and the brand is, well, understated when compared to Change.gov. Yet, it’s more more content-laden. For example, there are 157 posts labeled civil rights, 412 on Iraq, and 174 on energy independence.

Despite all the policy goodness, The Gavel isn’t exactly a center for blogosphere attention, from the left or the right. In two years, it’s garnered 1,624 “blog reactions” (links in) on Technorati – and it doesn’t often pop up on Memeorandum. Compare that to Change.gov, which has garnered 8,386 blog links in less than a month.

Watson argues that with a strengthening Democratic influence on the other end of Pennsylvania Ave., Pelosi may actually have the larger change potential, especially if the legislative branch gains more autonomy with the departure of the Bush administration. I think Watson’s right — while we may feel closer to the president these days because it’s easier to pay attention to one person in our media than 435, the House of Representatives is still the people’s branch. Should Pelosi set up a more participatory website allowing for more two-way communication, the development of social networks, and other innovative approaches, it allows an even larger number of Americans to get involved and take ownership of the legislative process. Perhaps congressional approval ratings would jump too.

The other reason I’d like to see this happen is the Obama versus party factor. As we move forward, I’d like to keep young people interested in the Democratic Party. Yes, we’re about to have a president who is a technological rockstar, placing high priority on technological development and using the internet to improve transparency. And Barack Obama does happen to be a Democrat. But like we’ve been arguing on this site, it’s not just about Obama; it’s about building a party that appeals to as many youth as possible. We should be spreading the message that it’s not just Obama that’s interested in innovative change; it’s the Democratic Party. Developing a website that is devoted to legislative change is a great starting point.

Advertisements