FPP: Local Elections? August 26, 2020 7:15 AM   Subscribe

The last MeTa about political megathreads got me to thinking that it might be good to have an FPP about local elections. What might be the best way to go about this, in a way that elicits healthy discussion and includes as much of the MetaFilter population as possible.

Over the past several months it's become very clear that it really matters who we elect as mayor, governor, city councillor, and school board member - these people are making decisions about mask mandates, police reform, stay-at-home orders, returning to school, testing and information-sharing.

I could cherry-pick random examples of local elected officials making decisions about closing and reopening bars and restaurants, responding to protestors, defunding the police. This seems less than ideal, somehow. I'd like to find an article that ties it all together, but so far I've had no luck finding one.

Then there's the question of whether this could be expanded to include non-US elections in a way that makes sense. I don't know much about election cycles or local authorities in other countries.

I've thought about doing this FPP myself, but someone else might do a much better job of it.
posted by bunderful to MetaFilter-Related at 7:15 AM (38 comments total)

Just to set this up, our position on this is that a) an FPP on local elections in general is fine, b) individual well-sourced FPPs about specific local elections are fine, and c) please remember that the purpose of a Metafilter post is to collect interesting links and discuss them, not just provide a placeholder for debate or activism. Try to focus on bringing content to the discussion that is valuable in itself!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

PoliticsFilter subsite? I know this was discussed and rejected in the past, but with new mods on board maybe it's time to reconsider. Seems like it would solve several problems: increasing engagement, avoiding megathreads, and freeing up the Blue for other topics.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Political posts require vastly more moderation effort per kilobyte of text than any other kind, as far as I have been made aware. The only way "PoliFi" would not be a net drain on site resources would be either make it community moderated OR make it available only to actual subscribers so additional dedicated "PoliFi" mod(s) could be hired. I'm not in favour of either, FWIW.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think the first question is what is the scope for the post, and the intent for commenters?

As previously noted and discussed, political posts (and to varying degrees, all posts on MetaFilter, just like most places online), not everyone reads the linked resources or even views the entirety of linked videos before they start commenting. And the bigger the original post (the more links and/or the lengthier the linked resources), the less likely it is that people will actually read everything before commenting.

In other words, I don't think anyone should ever feel like they have to include a certain number of links in any post, even a political post. I'd say the only thing you need to do is make sure the linked resource/ information is as accurate as possible, given the topic. People will come and add their own comments to expand the post, so I think the original post is setting the framing of the discussion and information sharing.

In past politics threads, people respond, react, and expand upon the topic with more and newer resources, which is another reason to not feel like you need to encapsulate everything on a topic. Even if you've been focused on a thing, there's always the potential that someone else has seen something more of interest and importance.

Looping back to the original question -- I think that it would make discussions more manageable, both from a moderation side and as a commenter, to narrow the scope beyond "let's talk about local and down-ballot races." Flippable seats and positions seem like valuable and interesting discussions we could have. That alone might be too big to wrangle in one post, so regional focuses might help.

But I also think it would be helpful for mods to weigh in on what they think would work best, from their point of view.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 AM on August 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

either make it community moderated OR make it available only to actual subscribers so additional dedicated "PoliFi" mod(s) could be hired. I'm not in favour of either, FWIW.

Why not? Either of those sounds like a reasonable option to me.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:11 AM on August 26, 2020

I think this could work. In the interest of broadening the discussion to a wider readership along the lines bunderful mentions, though, I like the idea of "hey, here are some interesting local/state US races, ballot measures and candidates all related to [post topic]" posts.

This might engage folks both inside and outside the area since it would let folks outside the local area dig into the topic with their own knowledge even if they didn't have local context.

For example, instead of a megapost on all of California's propositions, a post on Proposition 18 (which would allow 17-year-olds to vote in some elections) that also included articles or information on how other jurisdictions in/outside the US (like Scotland and Wales) have dealt with 16+ voting might lead to quite a broad discussion with a lot of points of access for people at all levels of interest: people in that area can dig in if they'd like and provide local context, and the rest of the site membership that participates would have still had a good thread.

A multi-election/candidate/measure approach also suits the scale and depth of just how many people are elected/measures are enacted at every level of government each November in the US AND how many races are covered in the media even at a local level, which means it's accessible to all site users without having to run things through Google Translate or something. For non-US elections I could see this being a challenge, but pretty good conversations happened in the Hong Kong local elections post from November 2019, for example (though of course we do speak English here!), so it has happened before.
posted by mdonley at 11:11 AM on August 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I like the idea and think it could be potentially more productive than big US presidential threads (which are going to have problems with staying "on topic" when the elephant in the room is whether or not US democracy will even survive the election, something that overshadows specific speeches given at the DNC/RNC). I like the idea of PoliFilter, too, but that's a nonstarter. Mods just don't have the resources or spoons to manage that, and that's understandable. Threads for local elections should be lower volume enough to be doable, I'd think.
posted by Lonnrot at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2020

Then there's the question of whether this could be expanded to include non-US elections in a way that makes sense

Thank you for the thought, but I think I would feel less excluded by a prominent mention that it’s a post about *US* local elections, rather than an attempt to shoehorn non-US elections into the post. The comments would probably be dominated by US-based discussion either way. (My main objection with a lot of US-based posts is not that they are US-based, but that they are not explicitly acknowledged as such. It leaves me with a lingering feeling that the assumption is US=normal, anywhere else is not).
posted by scorbet at 11:31 AM on August 26, 2020 [17 favorites]

I’m not sure how you have a post about local issues on a global website. Historically, a majority of the site’s users are US residents. This leads to some of the site’s problems with US-centered discussions, and means that a US national politics discussion is relevant to many MeFites, and more because of the US’s status as an 800 pound geopolitical gorilla.

I’m not sure how this works for local politics. CA and NYC are probably well-represented, but is there interest in the local ballots, once you get to anything more local than the federal Senate and House (which have national impact)? My wife is heavily involved in local politics, and it’s hard enough to get local people interested, never mind an international audience.

So what’s the angle here?
posted by Alterscape at 11:58 AM on August 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

perhaps time to revisit politic filter. local elections could be it's first subsection.
Since Mefi is u.s. based. World edition. American edition. Local edition and local could be anywhere.

do it, build it and people will come. If moneys an issue raise it.the mefi politick page. More then a goddamn newspaper. I want non English posts, non u.s. posts. If it's time and money, these can be found.

think of the popcorn yet wrote.
posted by clavdivs at 12:12 PM on August 26, 2020

I love local politics and like the idea of talking about local issues here but I think it will be really challenging to create a FPP with a wide readership. I think something like mdonley's suggestion is probably a good framing for a FPP if anyone wants to try it. I would be curious to see how it goes but to be honest I put so much time and energy into my own local stuff that my bandwidth is sadly limited for other places'.
posted by ferret branca at 4:30 PM on August 26, 2020

(And I've thought about making FPPs based on my own local interests but have never actually done it because it is way too easy for me to imagine people getting grumpy that it's too niche, US-centric, NY-centric etc. I don't mean to be overly critical of the idea of local posts, which, again, I like, but I just can't personally see a good way to make one.)
posted by ferret branca at 4:33 PM on August 26, 2020

There's nothing wrong with a certain level of US-centrism, because whether we like it or not, the domestic politics of the United States really is the politics of the rest of the world. But I struggle to imagine how a FPP on an Australian local or even state government election—unless there were some particularly unusual aspect—would be of any general interest to a global site.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:02 PM on August 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

The absolute last thing we need is a more American-centric Metafilter. Your politics is NOT the politics of the rest of the world. What an incredibly blinkered statement.

The constant churn of broken, useless American politics here is tiring. Tiring to the mods who have to deal with your arcane blowups over the petty politics of your interminably broken system. Tiring to people who have to explain time and time again how your politics fails them. Tiring to people who would like to see any acknowledgement of their own nation's history and significance given even the slightest notice here.

Just stop. The world no longer needs this shit.
posted by prismatic7 at 8:53 PM on August 26, 2020 [15 favorites]

I agree, America doesn't need the world's shit. So I say either fix the fucking problem or get a political subsite or get and build ones own. That might be a problem having mefi post the batshitinsane news from around the world.
posted by clavdivs at 11:17 PM on August 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fiasco isn't American FYI.
posted by freethefeet at 2:44 AM on August 27, 2020

Thanks clavidivs for saying Metafilter’s frequently-denied quiet bit out loud. It’s only a little thing, but you just made a long-delayed decision a whole lot easier.

Folks, enjoy your anocratic kakistocracy…
posted by Pinback at 2:46 AM on August 27, 2020

I am not an American, nor do I have any ongoing personal relationship with the US. Of the 30 FPPs I've made, 17 relate to Australia, and any if not most of those relate to my country's local political matters. Some of them are even interesting. I don't mind local politics, but---as RN kicked off at the very top of the thread---there has to be some hook for broader interest greater than 'look at this fucken guy', relitigation of grievances, or fanpol.

There really is nothing wrong with saying that domestic American politics is necessarily the politics of the world. It is. How many other thermonuclear global hegemons are there, which carry out their politics in the open, whose social media/tech companies dominate every other country's politics, and whose fault lines also filter out to the rest of the planet in the form of culture war and having to take sides? THat's what the stakes are.

Can I imagine a post on a local political contest in Peoria Illinois (is there such a place?) which is of interest to me, half a world away? Remotely, if there's some novel aspect to it, yes.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:09 AM on August 27, 2020

I find myself more interested in the politics of a small remote Australian outback village than almost any small town topic in this northeastern area.

Well there was one about a sketchy cop and a lost or stolen python a few years ago, but what was on the web was not at all well written, needed the non-web backstory ;-)
posted by sammyo at 5:57 AM on August 27, 2020

Sorry derail but, wow more snake stories than I knew...
posted by sammyo at 6:03 AM on August 27, 2020

perhaps time to revisit politic filter.

Perhaps it is time to admit that MetaFilter does not need to have a section and spot for everything under the sun.

I worry about the moderator(s) who would have to work the PoliticsFilter site. That seems like a (more) toxic work place to me.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 6:32 AM on August 27, 2020

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Pinback has buttoned.

Thanks a lot, guys....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2020

Thanks a lot, guys....
l, woulded blame the community, blame me.
I get pinbacks' "anocratic kakistocracy…" it's precient and it bothers me. Great to discuss the subject and these ideas have not been furthered, good stuff though the idea of FFP local political matters seem problematic unless examples of successful posts are shown and not the comments so much as the construction of the post.

What makes an local elections a FFP material...this is hard but I apologise esp. to pinback but for years I've tried to at least voice a place that's not u.s. centric, a place were other people can post in thier own language. Maybe, some day.
posted by clavdivs at 11:38 AM on August 27, 2020

clavdivs, I can't tell if you're trolling here, or if English is not your primary language, or maybe you're trolling us AND English isn't your primary language, but the way you just rudely dismissed the point of the post was so unneccesary it made another user leave. Maybe think about how you can more clearly state your beliefs without insulting other people's countries?

As to the topic, the biggest problem with posting discussion of politics from outside the U.S. (and to lesser degree outside Europe) is that right now the population of the site is mostly either American or European, so if for example Australian regional politics were a subject it might be only minutes before jokes about Men At Work, Steve Irwin, drop koalas, etc. get posted. Any FPP on the topic would need a clear framing from the mods, and a conscious effort by posters, to keep the cheap tourist hot-takes from obscuring the topic (see this MeTa post from just two weeks ago)

Right now the position of the mods seems to be against providing clear framing from the beginning posts, and also a hesitancy to address it in comments unless it reaches an ignition point with user flags.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 2:44 PM on August 27, 2020

I suspect MetaFilter would need radically different norms around posting and comments to have success with real local politics FPPs (as opposed to novelty or scandal driven ones.)

The same thing we Americans do to other countries we can do to local politics. Few posters will come in with much specific knowledge about a race and our national / factional hang ups, or the framing of the initial post's links, will probably overwhelm the handful of people with an actual stake in the outcome.

If we can pull it off, great. But it'll be tough.
posted by mark k at 5:46 PM on August 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

The last MeTa about political megathreads got me to thinking that it might be good to have an FPP about local elections.

Serious question: what would be good about such a post?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 PM on August 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I...really don't undertand this suggestion.
The idea is one megathread where we can comment about any and all local elections? Worldwide?

That would be super confusing. And tbh I don't really want to stumble randomly over elections in small town Finnland, Australia, India, Malaysia and whatnot. Or rather, I could imagine them interesting in individual FPPs, but not jumbled together.

I have no idea if a thread about American local elections would be useful to Americans. At least they'd be happening at similar times and have a common bracket. So no objections from my side.

On the whole, I would rather Americans make individual, clearly identified posts about their stuff because that sort of evens the field. I can decide for myself whether I want to read about some US thing, just like I can decide if I want to read about something happening in Zimbabwe. That makes it less America centric.

Bonus points if an US-centric FPP is crafted in a way that explains the significance for non-American readers, instead of taking for granted that we all keep up to date on the US.

Worst thing, however, is reading an allegedly international or non-US FPP, only to have the comments immediately relate everything to how it's done in the US. THAT's the big problem.

I also agree with whoever said that American politics IS the world's business and that posts about it might have a bigger international draw than, say, German politics. However I don't think we can infer anything more from that.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:55 AM on August 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

PoliticsFilter, many individual tightly-focused threads, mods on shorter shifts if it's really that taxing (say half politics, half non) or community moderated

Seriously, I'd like to hear from the mods on why they think this could or couldn't work in the current climate, as opposed to user opinions of 'it was a bad idea in the past and therefore is a bad idea forever'. If they still think it's unworkable I'll drop it.

posted by Flannery Culp at 6:12 AM on August 28, 2020

Seriously, I'd like to hear from the mods on why they think this could or couldn't work in the current climate, as opposed to user opinions of 'it was a bad idea in the past and therefore is a bad idea forever'. If they still think it's unworkable I'll drop it.

Can't speak for the whole team, but that's not a site I'm interested in working on.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:20 AM on August 28, 2020

That's fair, and thanks.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:25 AM on August 28, 2020

I am not a mod, but did start up a PoliticalFilter website for Mefites back in 2008.

I stopped doing it because it was turning into a hotbed of Liberal conspiracy theories, useful info, and political points that foreshadowed the current Left/progressive split. It was frigging exhausting, saw a lot of ugly sides of Mefites, was not fun for me and I was happy to let it die.

Another major point was that some Mefites started seeing PoliFi as a "garbage in" for political posts and they were constantly asking in political threads on Mefi why this wasn't over in PoliFi. It was starting to get ugly.

Plus, I realized I wasn't interested in coding, lol.

There is a PoliFi Slack for those interested, not sure of how to get on it, I'm sure someone else can answer that.

Finally, I think Restless_nomad summed up nicely, none of the mods want to run/moderate/whatever a political site or sub-site
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 AM on August 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm definitely not proposing a politics subsite or even a megathread for local elections.

Thanks for the suggestions. At the moment I'm thinking this could look like a post about a specific type of local office, some information about how authority and acquisition of office (elected vs appointed) might vary between jurisdictions, and examples of individuals in that role who are remarkable in one way or another.

I don't expect it'd get a ton of traffic or comments, but I think I'll give it a shot when I have time to do the research. I'm open to collaboration as well. With a few collaborators, it could be a series (mayor, city council, county commissioner, D.A., etc).
posted by bunderful at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

A thousand local politics posts does seem like a total nightmare from the moderation perspective... Managing the context would be an immense task. (Who are the edgelords in Illinois house district 12? Is this thread just an acrimonious relitigation of the 2018 midterm special election in Alabama?) This is kinda what the Reddit model is supposed to do: let a million tiny flowers bloom, with their own local moderation to deal with the ins and outs of each.

OTOH, I think a series of posts like 'Comptrollers: What would you say you DO here?' would be awesome and of sufficiently wide interest. (Compare/contrast: anniversaries of albums released in 1985.)

(I've also been gathering links for a big post on redistricting, FWIW; feel free to ping if you'd like to collaborate!)

Finally: if the big overarching links you want don't exist, you could write the article(s) you want to see, and then post them to MeFi Projects.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:16 PM on August 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kaibutsu your second paragraph is exactly what I'm thinking of!
posted by bunderful at 12:33 PM on August 28, 2020

I'm thinking this could look like a post about a specific type of local office, some information about how authority and acquisition of office (elected vs appointed) might vary between jurisdictions, and examples of individuals in that role who are remarkable in one way or another.

This sounds like it could be interesting, for sure.

Threads on specific local politics probably wouldn't be that interesting IMO, unless there was something truly exceptional about it. (I mean, I could post a thread about the young, leftish women who have got onto my local council, but what would anyone outside my area say except 'yay! good for them'? And our main local issues are 'do we build a tunnel to make it easier to get to the airport?' and 'do we allow a high-density housing development?').
posted by Pink Frost at 2:01 PM on August 28, 2020

Threads on local government mechanics, like the comptrollers or mayors vs. city managers vs. councils, sheriffs, school districts, etc. would be great. And of course not limited to various US local systems.

There's some difficulty in doing non-US system if it's covered primarily as an "explainer" for US people but still I think these could be great, as good online material is available.

In my head it's a very different topic than I pictured as "local politics" which might be about water usage and zoning struggles in unincorporated [your county name here] and I still think would be tough to have a good discussion about.
posted by mark k at 3:32 PM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

All I can say is I attended a Zoom meeting with 67 members of the Democratic central committee of Kern County, California. It was thrilling, watching these regular people work their community activism, get amazing things done, with some "bickering, points of order, side comments, some of them very dry, like," Mr. Chairman, you can mute,"That," referring to someone with a loud piping voice. It was hard work on their part, and cordial. I am still smiling about some things. I went seeking their endorsement. for my school board run. I never said a word. Next time maybe. It was fascinating. I already missed the Feminism panel with Gloria Steinem, and Dolores Huerta.That's what was up with the Democratic women of Kern. Me, having a garden and filling out paperwork. I ran my printer dry with documents. I made my first campaign expenditures. Ha ha ha.
posted by Oyéah at 9:15 PM on August 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Perhaps the (fascinating) Last Week Tonight episode about Special Districts is a good example of a broadly-interesting story about patterns in local politics (it’s definitely more in the explainer category than the activism one).
posted by mosst at 8:54 PM on September 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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