Political Transparency

If you’ve ever watched C-span, you might have noticed that before a representative has the floor the camera pans to show how many people are actually in the room. This technique is something insiders lovingly refer to as Gingriching because roughly a decade ago many politicians, Newt Gingrich especially, would often utilize an empty congressional chamber in the middle of the night to give some grandiose speech to an empty room. The speech would play the next day on C-span, and the representative could use whatever soundbites or clips to gain favor with constituents. The introduction of C-span was supposed to allow for more transparency and accountability on the part of politicians, and in many ways it has. It would, however, be dangerous to assume that since these meetings are televised we know exactly what is going on with policy. When you are able to see it, it’s a performance, and any actual dealing is being done behind closed doors. In The Circle, transparency appears to eliminate secrecy. The problem is, there will always be a way to circumvent technology. We discussed in class that even if a politician isn’t the one directly negotiating behind closed doors, there would certainly be someone doing that on his or her behalf. The only way to assure total accountability is to monitor absolutely everything someone is doing, which should seem terrifying. Even so, if there somehow was a way for total accountability without that kind of intrusion we would likely be left with a pretty subpar group of potential representatives. Often, people who desire to be politicians are the last people we would want to be politicians. With this total transparency, what kind of person might actually volunteer? There is a lot to be said for the fact that almost everyone in government went to school to become a politician. There are very few doctors, engineers, scientists, or writers. We already have enough issues with being adequately represented, and total transparency might in fact exacerbate the problem. Is someone who would willingly be monitored someone we would want making critical decisions?

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One Response to Political Transparency

  1. zucconi says:

    This whole transparency movement in The Circle is really messing/changing the role of the politician. It was rather alarming to me that when Congresswoman Santos stepped out on stage, no one recognized her. The Circle is filled with some of the most educated people and yet none of them knew what their representative looked like. But once she declared she was going transparent, she turned into a famous hero at The Circle.

    After this announcement, politicians are basically forced to go transparent by their constituents or risk their reputation/job. This is certainly forcing out good politicians who care about accurately representing their district and fulfilling their duties. The public cares more about whether or not you’re transparent than if you do a decent job. They think that if you’re transparent then you must be a good person since you have nothing to hide. I believe that a lot of the decent politicians will be replaced by even less knowledgeable people who are more actor than politician. I say actors because when we know we’re being watched, we change our actions and words. Thus, these replacements will know how to act and what to say in order to gain popularity with their millions of watchers. This popularity that they are trying to gain is more like the popularity of a celebrity rather than the approval rating that a real politician seeks. Whether or not these replacements are consciously “acting” is another debate considering Mae doesn’t realize how she has changed when confronted by Mercer on multiple occasions.


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