It used to be the way a candidate showed he was likeable and cared about his fellow citizens. But thanks to actor Will Ferrell’s movie character, Congressman Cam Brady, candidates kissing babies became more about the baby’s “kisser.”
So what else can we expect candidates to include among their campaign strategy and platform in 2014? Bet your money on “TT”: Open Government, Open Data, FOI (freedom of information), Access and Accountability. All of these terms fall under the Transparency umbrella. From mayoral candidates discussing transparency as part of a public forum, to Attorney General candidates proposing new, open government units within their agencies, TT sends the signal, “I get it” and more importantly, “I’m accountable.”
Keep in mind, however, TT doesn’t actually mean they are or will be forthcoming and accountable to the public. In a campaign, anything said should be considered part of their pitch, or a slogan. Plenty examples exists that show you can run but you can’t hide when it comes to public disclosure. There are enough watchdogs out there from journalists, to attorneys, to nonprofits keeping their eye on the institution of government even if government officials are neglectful.
And the more we learn about “open data,” the more we find that the primary steward of this public information is not necessarily an open government.
But the corner has been turned thanks to public interest and particularly to technology. Governments are realizing that being open about their affairs and their information not only constitutes good government, but it also has political benefits. We shouldn’t be surprised to see the idea and more “TT” showing up front and center in the campaigns of those who strive for public office or for those who want to maintain their positions there.
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