"A horse, a horse, my Kingdom for a Horse" King Richard cried out just before he was murdered (Richard III by Billy Shakespeare ~ 1592.)
King Richard of England was really, really unpopular. He was accused of ascending to the throne via various Michiavellian behaviors. Eventually he was trapped on the battlefield by his enemies, his horse was slain, and he uttered the above line - metaphorically begging for a way out of the trapped world that was his kingdom. He didn't get the horse - and he died.
After over 20 years of fighting about health care the U.S. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and the President signed it into law in 2010. About the only agreement in the country was that the ACA appealed to almost no one due to the compromises required to get it passed. It was fought by wide ranging constituencies, until in 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the law.
But not even that was the end of the fight, because in October, 2013 Congress shut down the government as groups fought about whether the act would receive any funding to implement its own provisions. Eventually an agreement was reached, the government re-opened, and it looked like the ACA was going into practice.
Oh, but wait...
In today's world everyone uses the internet. Face-to-face meetings are largely gone, and forests by the score are being saved as we refuse to use paper when a digital screen will accomplish our tasks. So it only made sense that when the U.S. population was to sign up for the benefits of this new law they would do so on the World Wide Web.
Folks would buy health insurance just like they buy books and clothes, and download movies, from a web site. Billions of transactions have happened over the web the last decade. Why, Google alone does over 5 billion searches each and every day. So it seemed easily practical, and doable, for implementation to be as easy as opening a new web site. We all expected that come November we'd simply hit the search button, go to the web site, price out the options and make our health insurance decisions.
Of course we all know how that worked out. Or didn't. The site didn't work for spit. Apple may be able to track about a million apps on its site, and it seems able to deliver about 4 million per day at an average price of about a buck. But the U.S. government web site - after spending over $400million (maybe even $1B) - couldn't seem to process but a few thousand applications a day. So Congressional hearings started - cries for firing Secretary Sebelius rang out - and President Obama's favorability plummeted faster than the failed effort messages came up in browsers at Healthcare.gov.
You could almost hear the President on the steps of the White House "A web site, a working web site, my Presidency for a working web site."
There was a Chicago mayor who lost an election because he couldn't clear the streets of snow. Something as simple as removing snow in a 1979 blizzard overtook everything Mayor Bilandic's administration did, and wanted to do, for his great city. When Chicagoans couldn't access their streets for 3 days they "threw the bastard out" by electing a new candidate (Jane Byrne) in the next primary - and she went on to be the next mayor.
And the only thing anyone remembers about Mayor Bilandic was he didn't get the snow off the streets.
This lesson is not lost on any local mayor. You can have grand plans, and vision, but if you can't keep the streets clean you get thrown out.
We've entered a new era of political expectations. Citizens now expect their politicians to build and operate functional web sites. They expect their government to do as least as good a job as private industry at everything digital. And if politicians, or administrators, flub a web implementation it can have signficant, damaging implications.
Failure to build a functional web site, meeting the average person's expectations, is a terrible, terrible falure these days. Perhaps enough to lose the voters' trust. Perhaps enough to breath new life into those who want to overturn your "landmark legislation." And perhaps enough to kill your place in history.