is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired in 2013), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “How They Got There: Interviews with Digital Designers About Their Careers”and “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children.
Please refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
The whole political donation scene in the US is very interesting to me. In Australia, it’s very unusual for a private individual (rather than business) to donate to a political campaign. There aren’t obvious mechanisms for making a donation, and it’s certainly not talked about much in the media, except for where there’s a perceived intention to influence party policy on a certain issue. I wonder if it’s something to do with the fact that in Australia, where voting is compulsory, we’re inclined to sit back and wait for the message to be delivered, in whatever way it happens, rather than involving ourselves in the process?
If I may…making a donation to a political campaign has everything to do with freedom of speech in the United States.
Freedom of speech is not simply the right to talk. It is the right to speak politically, either for or against our government. By making a political contribution to John Kerry’s campaign, the owner of this site is voicing his opposition of Bush by putting his money where is mouth is. Making this kind of a monetary contribution is what our freedom of speech is all about – and is, as a side note, the prime reason why the so-called Campaign Finance Reform bill is an erosion of our First Amendment rights.
So, by extension, some people have more freedom of speech than others. That’s why I like the Australian compulsory voting system — everybody has equal free speech (and can choose not to exercise it, by casting a donkey vote), and political donations are pretty well scrutinised. Room for improvement, but going okay so far.
During the 2000 campaign, I didn’t even consider donating money, but then two things happened in the intervening four years: First, campaign contributions on the Internet gained a higher profile as a fundraising method, which made me realize that it’s actually possible for me to play a monetary part in the elections. Second, George W. Bush’s White House caused havoc with just about everything that I think is great about the United States of America, which has made donating — for me — compulsory.
I think Raphy has a point about campaign contributions as a kind of free speech. It is, ut an adulterated one, in which personal expression is secondary to offsetting other people’s personal expression. Okay, setting aside that in many ways, this brand of ‘free speech’ serves to limit the free speech of others, my only comment would be that, while making my campaign contributions, I really didn’t feel like I was engaging in free speech. I just felt like I was trying to throw one more little rock in an effort to stave off the onslaught of the Bush fundraising machine.
To further elaborate….free speech is political speech. The founders of this country were rebelling against a Monarchy that did not allow dissent. Speaking out against the Monarchy, or god-forbid, supporting a rebel government could land one in jail – or worse. Today, in many parts of the world, this is still the case.
Whether I provide support by marching in a street protest, or by financially supporting a rival to a seated government – I am engaging in protected free speech.
None of this guarantees success, however. Howard Dean raised tens of millions of dollars in a grass roots effort. Additionally, he dominated news coverage in the run up to the Democratic primary election. As you now know, he was not successful in his bid because it actually does take more than money to win an election. It comes down to making a compelling case to your average American, who’s vote trumps all.
I didn’t mean to suggest that political donations were a bad thing, although I do think they need to be subject to careful scrutiny – despite what Raphy says, I do think money speaks louder than almost everything else in an election campaign. But what I was really wondering is whether there’s any kind of relationship between compulsory voting and campaign donations.
Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.