Still, Manjoo offers reasons for hope:
This stikes me as one of the big potential benefits of open government. In today's media culture, candidates are labeled as "flip-floppers" for any change in stance, even when it reflects changes in the fact base or is motivated by a worthwhile attempt to compromise on other issues. By connecting directly with the people who were most passionate about his views on FISA, Obama was able to vote the way he wanted while still maintaining (and enhancing) his reputation as a thoughtful politician capable of nuanced decisions. In other words, he raised the level of discourse.
During the campaign, we saw one vivid example of how Obama might handle online protests of his policies—he'll let them go on. In June, the senator announced that he had switched positions on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He decided to vote for an updated version of the bill even though it offered immunity to telecom companies that had worked with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, a measure that many of his supporters vehemently opposed.
Protestors immediately took to the campaign's site; a group urging Obama to reject the bill swelled to more than 20,000 members, making it by far the site's largest. Obama didn't change his mind on the eavesdropping bill. But neither did the campaign take any steps to shut down the anti-FISA group, and shortly before voting for the bill, Obama posted a lengthy note to the group explaining why he'd voted for the bill, and his policy staff answered hundreds of comments from the group explaining the nuances of the senator's position.
As we watch Obama's transition unfold, it will be interesting to see if he uses his direct link to Americans to explain his decisions along the way. One could imagine that if Obama succeeds at using this channel to make a case to citizens, it will leave others in government no choice but to establish their own direct link to the voters - and suddenly a representative government becomes much more representative.