The earliest attempts to bring “digital democracy” to Australia came from an unlikely source. In 2000, Labor rising star Mark Latham was stewing on the backbench, having resigned from Kim Beazley’s shadow ministry following the 1998 election. Despite his carefully cultivated self-image as a political outsider, Latham found himself having dinner in Sydney with the American political strategist Dick Morris, an archetypal creature of the Washington establishment.

An associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton since the 1970s, Morris had become a senior adviser to the president following the Democratic Party’s disastrous showing in the 1994 midterm elections, when the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress. Morris urged Clinton to adopt his “triangulation” or “Third Way” strategies, under which the Democrats would move to the political centre, adopting the best policies of both the left and the right and appearing sensible and pragmatic to the mass of non-ideological voters.

Morris also encouraged Clinton to view voters much as a business would its potential customers. “I felt the most important thing for him to do was to bring to the political system the same consumer-ruled philosophy that the business community has,” he told Adam Curtis in the 2002 documentary The Century of the Self. “I think politics needs to be as responsive to the whims and the desires of the marketplace as business is. And it needs to be as sensitive to the bottom line — profits or votes — as a business is.”

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