Cory Booker's plan to 'hack' politics and disrupt democracy

"The power of the people is more important than people in power," Booker said. He's developing #waywire, a social news platform, in hope of changing America for the better more quickly.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker Dan Farber

SAN FRANCISCO -- Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party, came to San Francisco to introduce #waywire, a video news product he co-founded, and to appeal for the use of technology to "disrupt our democracy and hack our politics to better reflect the purpose of our people."

Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt here, Booker described #waywire as an app for creating, collecting and sharing news video. #waywire is now available in "alpha" and has an iPhone app, and is integrated with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

#waywire courts millennials with social, crowdsourced news site

"The power of the people is more important than people in power," Booker said, arguing that #waywire could disrupt what he called the "oligarchy" of the media. "No site has a monopoly on the truth," he added. Booker believes that issues such as lowering crime rates and improving schools can be solved better if more people have a voice, and #waywire provides another media platform for the people to express themselves and "change America at a more rapid pace." 

Social media is effective if it is used to "tell the truth and see you for who you are," Booker said, citing his "awful, corny joke" tweets as evidence of who he is beyond an elected government official. "This is a threat to our democracy... if we don't find a way to use this amazing technology," he concluded.

Booker is one of the more technically savvy politicians around. With nearly 1.2 million Twitter followers, he is more popular on the service than Mitt Romney, and he is friendly with many of the leading lights of technology. #waywire is backed by some of his technology industry friends or acquaintances, including Google's Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. 

Booker said that social media lets him create an instant connection with constituents to combat what he called a "growing wave of cynicism."

Booker hooked up with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who donated $100 million of his stock to help Newark's troubled public schools. He has also received matching funds to go along with Zuckerberg's grant from hedge fund managers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Silicion Valley VC John Doerr and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

During his TechCrunch interview with Josh Constine, Booker praised people from the technology sphere such as Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Jobs, for applying their success-oriented discipline "to America's more difficult and unglamorous problems." He described Zuckerberg as an "American hero" for his role in connecting people around the world.

 

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