By Erin Lale
At Bridgette Bryant’s campaign kickoff party June 30, 2012, at a Lake Las Vegas resort pool, the public took center stage. Bryant did not make any speeches. Instead, she acted as facilitator to the group and encouraged everyone present to answer the question, “What is most important to you?”
Between eating red, white and blue cupcakes and watching the Lake Las Vegas fireworks display, each member of the public answered the question. A young man talked about needing to find a job, parents talked about their children, a caregiver talked about her parent and a senior woman said the most important thing was liberty. Listening and taking notes, Bryant was the face of a new trend in political campaigning: asking the people what they think instead of telling them what to think. Instead of taking the pulse of the public remotely, via opinion polls, candidates are now asking people directly what they should do for them.
This trend came home to Henderson residents during the recent primary election as candidates doing the traditional district walking knocked on doors and asked people what issues were most important to them instead of telling people what the candidates hoped to accomplish. Robocalls are switching from recorded speeches to recorded invitations to live town hall meetings via phone. The Public Voice Foundation created a website for crowdsourcing initiative petitions. Like the switch from watching TV to participating in internet forums, political life is becoming more interactive.
Bryant’s kickoff party drew a diverse crowd. All ages, all races, men and women, poor and middle class, they all had one thing in common: Their voices were heard.