A big perception of politicians is that they lie. What is the only way to prove you are not lying? Open yourself up, completely, 100% transparently. Here is the cool thing about the 21st century, we can now do this with all-day live social media.
When I first got elected, I heard many times, your number one priority is to your constituents. The problem is that the system is set up to change the politician’s priority from the constituent to the institution, to other politicians, to chamber rules, to leadership, to donors, to getting re-elected. We can now change that with today’s technology and with the courage to do it.
We can now watch a politician in every meeting, every interaction, every decision and have confidence they are making those decisions on our behalf, not the system’s behalf.
Why hasn’t this happened yet? Why hasn’t any politician decided to go 100 percent transparent, using all-day live social media?
I think it is fear. Fear of letting people inside the “system”, fear of letting their opponents know their strategies, fear of the public not understanding the processes, fear of violating some other politician’s secrets. Fear of having to watch your language all the time.
So why would a politician do this, put him or herself out there in 100% transparency? Because our country needs them to. We need to have faith again in our leaders, in our representatives. So, if a politician can bypass the press (who intrinsically filter information through their biases) and show honest, open, devoted, sometimes flawed decisions, that transparency will gain trust. It might even gain some civility.
I believe this kind of transparency will benefit the politicians who embrace it. Their constituents can see into their hearts and have faith again in those decisions. I know over the course of many years of leading people, that if they know your heart, even when they might disagree with a certain strategy, or vote, they will still be with you. And then trust develops and in turn, faith. Faith in the institution of, not necessarily government, but of people.
Now of course there will be some limitations of transparency that are good for all of us, like national security decisions, and personal lives. A politician who embraces 100% transparency will have to figure out those boundaries, and I think we would all understand those. Some long-established inside-the-box rules will have to change, but I can think of no situation as a former state representative, where my constituents did not deserve to see and hear exactly what I was seeing and hearing. Our constituents deserve to see and hear it all, after all, they are the ones paying for it, it is their government.
This would be a paradigm shift on how things are done in politics. We now have the technology to bring the public into every meeting, every strategy session, every caucus, every briefing, every closed door, every decision. It is time for a new kind of politician who is not hamstrung by outdated rules and presumptions. It is time for real transparency and letting your constituents see everything.
Of course, there will be some issues of technology and circumstances that will get in our way, but the possibility is now before us. Are there any politicians with the courage to do it?
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Author: Walt Rogers

Walt Rogers serves as Deputy Director of TEF Iowa, a public policy think tank based in West Des Moines, Iowa and is a former state legislator who chaired the House Education Committee.