The Democratization of Democracy

     The Internet has made it possible for individuals to bypass traditional gatekeepers and make their own destiny.  Adam Young of Owl City went from making music in his parent's basement to scoring a trans-Atlantic No. 1 hit thanks to the Internet.  Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton rose from obscurity to fame that included televised arguments with Miss California and being punched in the face by the Black Eyed Peas' manager thanks to the Internet.  The world wide web has "democratized" every facet of our lives.  Now it's democracy's turn.

     In Illinois, a state notorious for its back room deals and shady politics, Scott Cohen, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor dropped out of the race over accusations that he assaulted both his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend, didn't pay child support, and used steroids. Cohen made his announcement at a press conference held during the Super Bowl.

     To fill the vacancy, the Illinois Democratic Party announced that anyone can apply for the position by filling out an application available online.  So far, over 200 people have signed up for the spot.  The candidates range from those already involved in local politics to unknowns.

     25-year-old Alex Hartzler, a law student at the University of Chicago, said that he would bring strength to the ticket because, "I did not vote for Rod Blagojevich in 2006," referring the the former governor who was arrested in 2008 over charges that he would give President Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

     Few candidates were able to name an organization or elected official that had endorsed their candidacy, but 34-year-old Jeff Ford, a former IT project manager, did mention his dad.  "My father, David C. Ford, always supported and encouraged me to get into politics. He served as County Prosecutor for Blackford County, Indiana and State Senator for the 19th District of Indiana. He's understandably biased, however."

     Although the idea that a brick salesmen, liquor store owner, or professional violinist could become the next lieutenant governor of Illinois is romantic, it's probably not going to happen.  The state lawmakers and mayors and former gubernatorial candidates are the ones likely to take the spot.  The ones with the experience.  The ones with name recognition.  The ones with money.

     Still, the opportunity is there.  One unknown candidate with a message that resonates and goes viral can change the course of an election.  The state party will begin looking over applicants on March 15 and the state party chairman will make the final decision.

     To read excerpts from applications by others hoping the get the lieutenant governor spot, click here.


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