The following fictional story brings out points about the AyeNay mission. The story is about an elected official, Softwine City Councilmember Lae Dock. Lae finds himself caught between his desire to keep his campaign promises and the realpolitik inherent in getting things done in a democratic setting.
AyeNay: A Fictional Story
City Council Member Lae M. Dock was in a bind.
Dock had made two non-negotiable campaign promises to get elected. One, to create a uniformed police service for city parks so that kids could take back the parks from drug lords and drug users. The second, to reinstate an energy tax rebate for low income families.
But now some of his colleagues were against one measure, and some were against the other measure. If Dock stood his ground on both his core issues, he’d make enemies of all the other council members, plus he’d end up alienating his constituency.
If he supported one issue, he might get somewhere. But that would mean breaking one of his campaign promises.
“I’ll get nothing if I stand on principle,” Dock told his top legislative aide, Cal Klashun.
“You’ll get re-elected. Your constituents care more about your integrity than your ability to carry the day,” Klashun advised. “Stand firm. ‘Yes’ to ‘Bring Back the Kids’. ‘Yes’ to ‘Warm Homes’.”
Doc knew Klashun was right. As a politician he agreed. The idea is to get re-elected. Not to be a one-termer. Still, since being elected, Dock had begun to appreciate the responsibilities of being an elected official. His decisions affected real people. He began thinking beyond his own selfish self interest.
One of Dock’s colleagues had offered to vote with Dock on the police force if Dock would vote against the energy rebate. And another colleague had told him the reverse. That he would vote for the rebate if Dock would vote against the park police.
If only I could do an instantaneous poll of my district, Dock mused to himself. Then I could figure out the way to help my constituents on at least one issue I campaigned on, if not both issues. Using time tested “smoke filled back room” negotiations, I could help pass one measure, if not both. But before I do that, I have to figure out how to do the least damage to my political career. But, how? “How?”
“There is a way,” said Klashun.
“What…?” Dock said, startled. Klashun’s voice roused Dock from his reverie. Had Klashun read his mind? Only then did Dock realize he’d spoken out loud while he wondered. Embarrassed, Dock blurted out, “So go ahead! Tell me.”
Klashun frowned. “It’s called ‘Ayenay’. Ayenay is a company that reached out to us during the campaign. Their business model seemed far out at the time. But now it makes sense.”
Klashun noticed he had the council member’s attention. He continued, “Ayenay gets voters to uses social media on their smartphones to register their political positions. Then, AyeNay keeps voters updated — via social media — on elected officials activities: votes, committee discussions, etc. Then, the voters respond online ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay’. That is, ‘for’ or ‘against’. The results of the voter survey are then available on the Ayenay website.”
“That’s it, Cal! That’s the company I need,” said Dock. Klashun nodded agreement.
“I have just one question, though,” said Dock.
“What’s that?” asked Klashun absentmindedly, busy googling Ayenay on his smartphone to locate the company contact website in order to schedule a survey.
“Couldn’t they have come up with a catchier name for their company?! No wonder you initially ignored them.”
(Six months later.)
Dock turned around to find one of his most vocal constituents, Mr. Plainer.
I’m in trouble now, thought Dock.
Plainer started laying into Dock. “You promised energy rebates. I voted for you. But no rebate ever showed up in my mailbox. Last winter was harsh. I had to turn down my heat to save money to pay my utility bill.”
What could Dock do? He figured there was nothing to say.
Plainer continued. “So during that first snow storm we had, I was inside wearing two sweaters and a jacket. Thermostat was set to 60. I said to myself, might as well go outside and shovel if I’m already bundled up.
“I went out with my shovel. Across the street, kids in the park were making snow forts and having a massive snowball fight. I was fuming. City has enough money to pay for a park policeman so these kids can have fun, but I have to live in a cold house.
“I got drawn into following the snow battle. One side eventually got the upper hand and smashed the forts of the other side, pelting their opponents into a fuzz of white powder.
“‘Bravo! Bravo!’ I shouted out to the winning side.
“A girl from the defeated side came over. ‘Why are you cheering?’ she asked. ‘We LOST!!’
“I pointed out that everyone was a winner. Just being outside to play was the prize.
“‘If so,’ she said, ‘then even if you don’t shovel your walk YOU’RE ok with that? After all, you’re outside…’
“Then she laughed and took my shovel and started shoveling for me. Her friends asked what she was doing. She explained she was making me a winner by giving me defeat. Then, the kids started fighting over the shovel, and in a few minutes the walk was done.
“‘Bravo,’ the girl said ironically and handed me back my shovel.”
Dock was in shock. Where was Plainer going with this rambling story?
Tears welled up in Plainer’s eyes. “Don’t you get it? Every day that I shivered in my house, I thought of how rotten you were, but then I realized that whether you keep every promise or not, we’re all winners because we are free to pick our leaders. Sure I was cold all winter. But the voices of the kids in the park warmed me up. That was a tough call you made to not fund the rebates. But you made the right move.”
Dock shook Plainer’s hand. “You’re a good man, Plainer. It’s an honor to serve you.”
Dock started turning, to leave.
“Not sure how you arrived at your decision, though,” Plainer mused as they parted.
Dock just smiled. And made a note to himself to buy Plainer a smartphone.