While most of the winners of the 2022 midterms have just recently been announced, its biggest loser is clear, at least according to polling giant Gallup: voter enthusiasm. Rather than empowered, millions of Americans feel left out of the current political process. Conversations have become fraught, often veering into the acrimonious and divisive, yet democracy thrives on debate. If Twitter and cable television have failed American politics, what can fill the void?
The answer is a paradigm shift to Web3, according to Aaron Rafferty, CEO of Standard DAO and Co-Founder of its subsidiary, BattlePACs, a political Web3-based startup. Rafferty has been active in the Web3/blockchain space for more than six years, but only recently entered the political arena. And while decentralized finance and politics may seem like strange bedfellows, he says that they are more similar than one might guess. After all, both involve understanding societal behaviors and how they relate to financial outcomes.
Voters have always voted with their pocketbooks, of course, especially in times of economic uncertainty. “BattlePACs,” Rafferty says, “just gives them the opportunity to do so using cutting-edge technology, and not just at election time.” His platform wants to reignite the healthy debate that should precede a vigorous election and provide what he calls, “a safe space for everyone to engage and express their opinions.” Essentially, imagine if Twitter married Bitcoin, then formed a digital democracy around some basic rules designed to promote a return to civil discourse.
But while Twitter and other social media sites focus exclusively on text and digital media, BattlePACs features a host of interactive features such as digital collectibles, election simulations, online debates and cause-based campaigns. Users accumulate points for their “side” (i.e., party, candidate, or cause), which are earned through the purchase of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. The NFT purchase acts as both a “vote” for a political party or cause, as well as a “ticket” to access other features on the platform.
Simulations on BattlePACs, such as online debates, will award real money to the winners. Users will also accumulate points for Democrats, Republicans, or Independents through the purchase of NFTs, and the winning party will get cash. This money, in turn, will be donated to Super PACs and/or nonprofits affiliated with their political parties, the amount of which will be determined based on the number of users participating as well as the overall sales of NFTs. The platform is funded by the sale of NFT packages priced at $9 and up.
Rafferty notes that the impact on specific races will be indirect and the platform will remain neutral. “BattlePACs’ political contests will serve,” he says, “as a proxy for the sentiment of the electorate, providing a real-time barometer of how the political parties are resonating with voters at any given point in time.” The hope is that online debate will help define the offline issues in local, state and national races.
Like any new technology, however, Web3 skews to a younger audience, so the brunt of BattlePACs initial impact will most likely be among Millennials and GenZers. The platform even recently sponsored a scholarship fund for college students, though its demographic could change quickly thanks to blockchain’s built-in security and transparency features. Rafferty points to Estonia, a stable European democracy that has already implemented a remote voting system using Blockchain for national elections that is currently used by 46.7% of the population.
“The government claims this has safeguarded Estonian voters against fraud and other manipulation and saved thousands of days of human labor,” Rafferty says.
Ultimately, then, BattlePACs’ biggest impact on politics may be a shift away from culture wars and towards democratic principles like immutability, transparency, and autonomy. Despite its name, however, the platform is not currently seeking to be a political action committee, or PAC, which are aligned with causes and political platforms.
For now, Rafferty is happy to watch BattlePACs move democracy forward incrementally. He notes that a few politicians, including former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, are already using the blockchain, and he expects many more to follow.
“Once they see its potential for both fundraising and creating more engagement with their constituents, they will be hooked,” Rafferty explains. “The reality is that institutions that don’t adapt to more participatory and engaged social networks will be outpaced by those that do, so there is a big incentive for them to do so.”