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For at least a decade, scholars have sought ways to remedy citizen dissatisfaction with representative democracy. Recently, the development and deployment of the Internet has been heralded as a technical solution to this problem. Observers often base their optimism on analysis of the Internet’s impact on elections and public comment processes. Yet elections do not generate the policies that people resent—policy processes do. So far, we know little about the Internet’s role in this critical social activity. This article provides a framework for locating the Internet’s impact on policy processes and presents findings from two case studies on “Internet-enabled” policy making. The cases suggest that the Internet will not fix what ails representative democracy. Indeed, the Internet may only reinforce the much-resented organizational dominance of politics. Reconnecting politics with society is still primarily the work of organizational and institutional reformers, not hardware and software engineers.

Liberal representative democracy models appear to have a built-in bias against citizens in disorganized or informal sectors that are not highly focused, in contrast to those driven by single issues. Powerful lobby groups are able to mobilize resources and influence government agendas for their own causes, while groups without resources or a single focus have no mechanism for influencing government policies and processes. The imbalance created by lobbying is probably one of the most serious issues confronting current liberal representative democracy models. —Kakabadse, Kakabadse, and Kouzmin (2003, 48)