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February 3, 2004

Exiting Deanspace

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Posted by Clay Shirky

I wanted to wait ‘til the February 3rd polls opened to post this, because I wanted it to be a post-mortem and not a vivisection. What follows is a long musing on the Dean campaign’s use of internet tools, but it has a short thesis: the hard thing to explain is not how the Dean campaign blew such a huge lead, but rather why we ever thought that lead actually existed. Dean’s campaign didn’t just fail, it dissolved on contact with reality.

The answer, I think, is that we talked ourselves, but not the voters, into believing. And I think the way the campaign was organized helped inflate and sustain that bubble of belief, right up to the moment that the voters arrived.

Take this as an early entry in a conversation everyone who was watching Dean’s use of the internet should contribute to: what went right? what went wrong? and what to do differently next time? We should do this now because ‘next time’ still includes a passel of primaries and then, most importantly, the general election. If we have the conversation now, we won’t have to wait til the few uncontested House races of 2006 to see if we learned anything.

Two caveats at the beginning: first, the stupidest thing I’ve said on this issue was in Dean: (Re)stating the Obvious:

“…the most salient characteristic [of the campaign] is the style of engagement, including the use of social software.”   That was a dumb thing to say.

The most salient fact of Dean’s campaign was Dean himself. Whatever conversation we have about the use of internet tools, Dean himself was the most important factor in the losses.

The analysis here is not concerned with the candidate, however, but with the campaign. So with additional caveat that a political campaign strategy is so absurdly multi-variate that certainty is impossible, those of us who care about the use of the internet in politics need to talk about how to use those tools better than the Dean campaign did.

Mental Models

Howard Dean had the best-funded, best-publicized bid to be the Democratic nominee; he was so widely understood to be in the lead that the inevitability of his victory was a broad topic of discussion. (Google “Howard Dean”+inevitable if you need independent confirmation.) Even the people disputing the posited inevitability burnished the idea; no one bother debunking the idea of, say, Kucinich’s inevitability.

I’ve had a hard time processing his Iowa and New Hampshire losses because I’d spent months hearing about how well he was going to do. It has taken me two weeks to decide that my mental model — how could such a successful campaign suddenly do so badly? — was the problem.

Dean’s campaign was never actually successful. It did many of the things successful campaigns do, of course — got press and raised money and excited people and even got potential voters to aver to campaign workers and pollsters that they would vote for him when the time came. When the time came, however, they didn’t. The campaign never succeeded at making Howard Dean the first choice of any group of voters he faced, and it seems unlikely to do so today.

If this thesis — call it the ‘mirage’ thesis — is too strong for you, consider its cousin, where the campaign was doing well until the last few days. In this version, one New Hampshire voter in three dumped Dean after no event more momentous than a third-place showing in Iowa (rarely known to track to New Hampshire elections) and a little hootin’ and hollerin’ in the concession speech (to use Sharpton’s memorable phrase). Not one Dean supporter in three, mind, one voter in three.

In this view, Dean’s support was real, but so thin and vulnerable that a mere political pin-prick was enough to cause the whole thing to collapse. Call this the ‘soap bubble’ thesis; the only difference between it and the mirage thesis is that in some other version of the election, if Dean had done everything perfectly, he could have performed well. I leave the likelihood of a primary race going perfectly as an exercise for the reader, but neither model suggests a campaign prepared for the real world.

Durham NH, December 9, 2003

We must take care not to re-write history so that we ‘always knew’ what was going to happen. I, like many, believed Dean would win the early primaries right up to the moment he cratered. To keep myself honest, I’ve spent some time reading Dean coverage pre-Iowa, and have come across an article that, if you want to understand the Dean campaign, should be required reading.

It is a Washington Post piece by Hanna Rosin called People-Powered (free registration required) and sub-titled “In New Hampshire, Howard Dean’s Campaign Has Energized Voters.” It’s about campaign volunteers canvassing for votes in New Hampshire in early December, and it’s not particularly broad or critical — rather it is an unintentional preview of the subsequent failure in that state, by presenting the techniques of the campaign in terms of motivational culture.

The piece is long, and almost every paragraph has something interesting in it. I can’t really do it justice here, but I’ll quote a couple of passages so you can get a feel for it:

But Moore [the Dean campaigner] has been trained to connect through the simple technique of telling a story. It’s a story he’s told dozens of times, not counting rehearsals. It’s a story not about Howard Dean but about James Moore […] It’s the type of tightly constructed inspirational story that climaxes in a moment of hopeful decision […]
Soon some of the women are sharing their own stories. One, a retired psychotherapist, says she’s “distraught at what’s happening to this country. I actually lie awake at night with my eyes wide open.” Another talks about a close relative who recently passed away and how it changed her. The women ask Moore questions about Dean’s positions — on the war in Iraq, the Confederate flag, Medicare — but mostly they share their fears and worries. The atmosphere is less like a political meeting than a support group. Yet from Moore’s point of view the bottom line is achieved. Several who came just because they were curious now seem enthusiastic about Dean: “He sounds like a listener.” “He’s cute when he’s angry.” “He’s cute, period.” At least two have agreed to hold similar house parties so they, too, can spread the word about Dean.

The story goes on:

There are many reasons why Dean has shot to a 30-point lead in New Hampshire […] the house meetings and similar one-on-one sessions seem to be the heart of it. Not so much because of the aggregate numbers — although in a state the size of New Hampshire, personally pitching 15,000 voters can make a difference. But because it so perfectly connects to an America that buys millions of self-help books. […]
Jim Mitchell, an older man who showed up at a recent Meet-Up event in Derry: “I have the sense I’m being listened to. They’re not so much about pushing Dean as they are about engaging people in conversation. It’s — what’s the word I’m looking for? — empowering.”

These passages, I want to emphasize, are from a piece that presents Dean as an all but certain winner, and yet the description now sends another message entirely: Less about Howard Dean than about James Moore, less like a political meeting than a support group, not so much about pushing Dean as they are about engaging people in conversation…

Several times Rosin comes right to the edge of predicting the events two months hence: those women were happy to have that nice young man come and listen to their stories, but in the end they weren’t going to vote for Howard Dean. She even provides a comparison to self-help books, and then finishes the sentence before she finishes the thought: self-help books sell well, but mostly don’t work.

The exit polls from New Hampshire were quite instructive. Kerry beat Dean in every demographic and psychographic group, including “voters under 30”, with but three exceptions: people for whom the Iraq war was the most important issue; people who labeled themselves not just liberal but very liberal; and people who’d made up their minds more than a month earlier.

So where did his 30 point lead go? Why would someone say they would vote for Dean if they weren’t actually sure? I believe that last category contains a clue as to Dean’s collapse in the polls – Dean lost among voters who waited til January to decide who to vote for, which is to say almost everybody.

Prior to January, “Howard Dean” was pronounced “Anybody but Bush.” The thing Dean did spectacularly right was to pick a fight with the President, a hugely polarizing and therefore energizing figure, on the issue most Democrats wanted to keep quiet about. Even if you’d been only been following politics casually, you would have known that Dean was the person who had most directly challenged Bush. For any Democrat whose primary motivation was not a bundle of particular policy proposals but the chance to send the current President home, Dean was the man of the hour.

In this view, the change in the poll numbers in January reflected not a transfer of votes from Dean to Kerry but rather from the general to the specific. Voter’s polled as to their choices last year were not bound by their answers, and nor had most of them bothered to sort out the candidates positions from one another. (My wife and I, both deeply interested in the primaries, couldn’t always remember all of their names.) A couple of weeks before the primaries, though, voters in those states started to have to make some real decisions, transferring their sense of “Anybody but Bush” to a specific Democratic candidate. And sometimes that candidate was Howard Dean. But mostly not.

How Did We Get Here? What Should We Do Next Time?

So how did this collective delusion of Dean’s front-runner-hood happen? And what if anything did the use of the internet contribute to it?

Here are a number of effects that I think led us to the false conclusion that Dean was, if not inevitable, than at least tipped to do very well. The bad news is that these effects, taken together, swamped what might have been a better-run campaign. The good news is that most of the effects are easy to recognize in retrospect, and therefore may be easy to defend against in the future.

- Novelty Campaign

The first and most obvious effect was novelty. Although there are already people running around claiming that the Dean campaign wasn’t really an internet campaign (on the grounds that such a campaign will, by definition, be successful), for those of us watching for the use of the net in politics, Dean was our guy, and we should remember that. He and Trippi and many of the Dean staff put the internet to the best, most vivid, and most imaginative use it has ever gotten in any national campaign.

That, of course, is a story in itself, and the press treated it as such. The NY Times, normally scrupulously balanced at election time (they gave front page coverage to a profile of Carol Mosely Braun) wrote article after article, including a cover story in the Sunday magazine, on how the Dean campaign had managed its “Come from nowhere” movement, the by now familiar story of MeetUp and MoveOn and internet donations and Dean weblogs.

The story took on the characteristics of a firestorm, where the original fire pulls more oxygen in, fueling the flames higher. The perception that Dean was first the strongest challenger, and then the frontrunner, was part cause and part effect for those stories.

We don’t need to worry about this in the future, I think. The press has a way of running fast epidemics, where an idea virus runs its course quickly, leaving everyone inoculated in its wake. The problem we will now have to watch for is where a candidate that makes innovative use of the internet will be cautioned about what happened to Dean.

- Support isn’t Votes

Other than this one-off effect, though, there are a number of more serious issues to contend with. The first of them is the difference between signs and the thing they signify. (Steven Johnson wrote about this over the weekend as well.)

Getting people together in the real world is hard – the coordination cost of any gathering runs into the inertia of modern life at every turn. (Robert Putnam in one sentence.) For many of us, the first time Dean appeared on our radar was when 300 people showed up for a Howard Dean MeetUp in New York City in early 2003. This was unprecedented, and Dean himself took note of it, coming down from Vermont to speak to his supporters.

We were right to be excited about this MeetUp, but wrong about the reason, because MeetUp was founded to lower the coordination costs of real world gatherings.

The size of the MeetUp in NYC was as much a testament to MeetUp as to Dean — it’s a wonderful tool for turning interest into attendance, but it created a false sense of broad enthusiasm. Prior to MeetUp, getting 300 people to turn out would have meant a huge and latent population of Dean supporters, but because MeetUp makes it easier to gather the faithful, it confused us into thinking that we were seeing an increase in Dean support, rather than a decrease in the hassle of organizing groups.

We’ve seen this sort of effect before, as when written correspondence on letterhead stopped being a sign of a solvent company, thanks to the desktop publishing revolution, or with the way email to politicians matters less than telegrams, because email is cheaper and easier to send. As we get the tools to make such gatherings easy, we need to concentrate on the outcome of those gatherings, rather than assuming strength simply by looking at the number of attendees.

- Fervor Isn’t Votes

Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Generations of zealots have tacked these words up on various walls, never noticing that the two systems that run the modern world – markets and democracies — are working right precisely when they defeat these attempted hijackings by small groups.

Voting in particular is designed as a repudiation of Mead’s notion. In the line at the polling booth, the guy with the non-ironic trucker hat and nothing other than an instinct for who he trusts cancels the vote of the politics junkie who can tell you the name of Joe Lieberman’s Delaware field manager.

In Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Campaign?, I suggested that Dean had accidentally created a movement instead of a campaign. I still believe that, and this is one of the things I think falls out from that. It’s hard to understand, when you sense yourself to be one of Mead’s thoughtful and committed people, that someone who doesn’t even understand the issues can amble on down to the local elementary school and wipe out your vote, and its even harder to understand that the system is designed to work that way.

You can ring doorbells and carry signs and donate and stay up til 4 in the morning talking with fellow believers about the sorry state of politics today, and you still only get one vote. If you want more votes than that, you have to do the hardest, most humbling thing in the world. You have to change someone else’s mind.

Internet culture is talking culture, so we’re not used to this. In our current conversational spaces, whether mailing lists or bulletin boards or weblogs, the people who speak the loudest and the most frequently dominate the discussion.

Imagine if a mailing list had to issue a formal opinion on the issues discussed, and lurkers got a vote. The high-flow posters would complain that the lurkers votes would not reflect the actual discussion that took place, merely the aggregate opinions of the group, and yet that is how the primaries work. Talking loudest or most or even best means nothing.

- Effort Isn’t Votes

Here’s a catchy phrase: “Design, Create, Produce to Elect Governor Howard Dean for President.” That’s the slogan atop DeanMediaTeam.com; can you spot the error? (and we’ll let the fact that Dean is not currently Governor slide.) Designers don’t create votes, voters create votes, one per, and its votes, not stylesheets, that do the electing.

It is natural for a campaign, attracting so many eager young people, to oversell them on the effect they’ll have, when the truth is so rough – you’ll work 80 hour weeks while sleeping on someone’s sofa, and in the end, your heroic contribution will be a drop in the bucket of what’s needed.

So a little pep talk now and again can’t hurt. However, you can go too far, and too far is when people begin selling one another on the idea that their work for the campaign has a direct effect on getting their candidate in. Someone at Dean HQ should have sent out a bulletin to the staff – all effects are indirect. Money, bell ringing, blogging, advertising, none of it will get Dean elected unless it convinces voters to elect him. If you can’t point to ways your work is getting votes, you’re not helping. In particular, if you are preaching to the converted (see “Fervor Isn’t Votes”, above), you’re really not helping.

- Money Isn’t Votes

This is the big one. Dean’s internet strategy was a curiosity until there was money involved, and when it got involved, it got involved in a big way. We mustn’t forget how enormous a change this was – an upstart politician blew past all the favorites and even exited the public funding system because he got enough money soliciting donations from the internet, a few bucks at a time.

If none of the rest of it, the MeetUps and weblogs, had ever happened, but Dean’s campaign had still done this, its place in political history would be assured.

And yet money does not in fact buy votes. As candidates like Michael Huffington and Ron Lauder have shown, you can be very rich and still very lose. In Dean’s case, though, the effect was compounded by two other effects from above. By moving campaign donations online, they made it much easier to donate, so much easier in fact that raising millions from individuals was never the sign of strength we thought it was. (Support isn’t votes.) Like MeetUp, a lot of what the campaign achieved was by lowering the threshold to contributing, which helped create a false sense of strength.

The other effect was that last fall, when Dean announced his desire to top the fundraising list, a lot of us gave him money, self included, as a vote for that method of fund raising, without that meaning anything about whether we’d vote for him.

We were donating to the use of the internet as a tool, in other words – in the same way that the voters heard “Anybody But Bush” when Howard Dean was mentioned, a lot of us heard “Contribute to the use of the internet for politics” when the collection plate came around. (Novelty campaign.)

This won’t happen again – there will never be a second candidate to use the internet first. However, as with other shows of seeming strength, we need to be careful not to equate the advantages of online fund raising with electoral success in the future. When you change the game, the old rules are useless for figuring out who’s winning.

- Sometimes Votes Aren’t Even Votes (Depending on Who’s Counting)

None of the above needed to be fatal. Having a high profile, even if not for your policies; eager supporters, even if a little too confident; and good fund raising, even if it didn’t translate directly into votes, could have been a pretty good place to start, and after losing in Iowa and New Hampshire (which, let’s remember, Clinton also did), it could have provided a cushion to catch the fall, and to help bounce back as a more appealing candidate.

The moment for me, and I think for many of us, when we realized that Dean was sunk was on Wednesday after New Hampshire, when the press reported that he’d spent most of his $45 million war chest already. The obvious question, “How did he think he could do the rest of the campaign on a few million dollars?” has an obvious answer: “He thought he’d raise more, when Iowa and New Hampshire anointed him frontrunner.”

This was a fatal flaw in the campaign – they believed their own press. Dean was so out of touch that he had not prepared a concession speech in Iowa, a state where his third place finish was so bad that if he’d gotten every single Gephardt vote as well, he would still have been in third place, and would still have been double digits behind Kerry.

This is the question within the question. Out here, we had an excuse (albeit a flimsy one) for believing Dean was the frontrunner: it’s what we read in the papers. But campaigns don’t just use the pollsters, their field operations also keep their own numbers. And for Dean to blow all his cash and then not even prepare for anything other than victory means their internal numbers predicted certain victory as well.

Back to Hanna Rosin’s story in the Post:

[The Dean worker] leaves knowing at least a handful can be logged into the central campaign database as No. 2s — leaning toward Dean — and even 1s — definite supporters — which means he’s done his part to reach the campaign’s total of 180 identified Dean voters in New Hampshire that day.

But how does he know that? He is, by his own admission, a newcomer to this game. How does he know that a middle-aged New Hampshire lady is a “definite supporter?”

Consider his incentives – he is out proselytizing for a guy he’s dropped the rest of his life for, campaigning on stories that are more about him than Howard Dean, and getting a reaction from his listeners that is closer to revival tent than political kaffeeklatsch, and then there’s that daily quota of 180 to fill. What’s he gonna say? “None of them think Dean is any good”? “I tried my best, but I couldn’t convince them”? “They said they were going to vote Dean, but I think they were just being polite”?

Amateurs and zealots both have strong incentives not merely to misrepresent reality, but to actually misunderstand it. If you’re on a mission to change the world, you have an incentive to believe it’s changing.

Furthermore, if this is your first campaign, and you are doing it not because you want to be in politics but because you want to make the world a better place, what happens if you mark a bunch of people as “definite supporters” who really aren’t? Nothing, really. You have no professional reputation on the line – if you put your thumb on the scale, even if only unconsciously, no one will ever call you on it, because by the time the actual votes are in, no one will remember how many “definite supporters” you said you had.

For Dean to have spent everything on a momentum strategy so secure that he didn’t bother contemplating even second place, he must have heard from his field operatives that things were just great, super, you wouldn’t believe how many “definite supporters” we converted today.

It’s not clear what to do about this – skepticism is a hard virtue to put into software. Maybe a reputation system, or a market for accuracy, will convince eager amateurs to be careful about the difference between politeness and voting intent. But this is the hardest problem, because many of the other forces listed here make it easier to recruit and use the efforts of amateurs. Unless they face pressures that dissuade them from happy talk and mutual affirmation, however, they will end up convincing their candidate to misallocate precious or even irreplaceable resources.

Affinity Over Geography

A number of people, disputing the idea that the use of the internet had anything to do with the gap between Dean’s predicted and actual support, have advanced the “internet minority” thesis, as in “The internet is used by a minority of citizens”, or, in its more regionally biased version, “Who in Iowa has computers anyway?”

With national internet penetration at roughly two-thirds of households, it’s long since time to retire this canard. More people use the internet than read a daily newspaper. More people use the internet than vote in general elections, much less primaries. Iowa and New Hampshire both have better than 50% penetration (as does most of the country except the antebellum south.) Furthermore, one of the commonest uses of the internet is getting daily news. The internet is now, and from now on, a political media channel.

That’s a sideshow, however, compared to the internet as an organizational tool. The main effect of the internet on politics is as a lever, not a hammer.

Culture matters, and since the 1970’s, anyone who has looked at the cultural effects of the internet has picked the same key element: the victory of affinity over geography. The like-minded can now gather from all corners, and bask in the warmth of knowing you are not alone.

And yet as wonderful as this effect can be, it carries pitfalls. Liberal judges become more liberal on panels of all Democrats, as do conservatives with Republicans. Support groups can become maintenance groups by accidentally reinforcing the normalcy of deviant behaviors. (One of my former students presided over the removal of YM magazine’s “Health and Beauty Tips” BBS, because it had become a place for girls to swap tips on remaining anorexic by choice.)

Voting, though, is the victory of geography over affinity. Deaniacs in NYC could donate money and time, blogging like mad or tramping through the cold to talk to a handful of potential voters, but they couldn’t actually vote anywhere but NYC. Iowa was left up to the Iowans.

The easy thing to explain is why Dean lost – the voters didn’t like him. The hard thing to explain is why we (and why Dean himself) thought he’d win, and easily at that. The bubble of belief, which collapsed so quickly and so completely, was inflated by tools that made formerly hard things easy, tricking us into thinking that getting votes had become easy as well — we were all in Deanspace for a while there.

It was also inflated by our desire to see someone get it right, a fact that made us misunderstand the facts on the ground – we suffered the same temptations as the campaign workers to regard our fellow citizens as “definite supporters”, even when we ourselves were supporting a movement rather than a campaign.

It’s been a shock, but it doesn’t have to be a fatal one. Lowering coordination costs and making it easier for citizens to create media and distributing fundraising to the masses are all good things. This year, however, to the surprise of many of us, pasting those things on to relatively traditional campaigns has worked better than the Dean campaign’s organic strategy did. The biggest difficulty for whatever version of next time comes around will be remembering not to believe our own PR.

Comments (64) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


COMMENTS

1. Jay Rosen on February 3, 2004 2:19 PM writes...

Brilliantly done. Truthtelling at its best.

Permalink to Comment

2. xian on February 3, 2004 3:59 PM writes...

Cogently argued.

One small quibble: Re "... in Iowa, a state where his third place finish was so bad that if he’d gotten every single Gephardt vote as well, he would still have been in third place, and would still have been double digits behind Kerry," I suspect that's true looking at the reapportioned votes but not the first round. Gephardt's number represents only the remnants of viable enclaves, with the rest of the supports going elsewhere.

Not that this is so good for Dean. The campaign alienated enough supporters of his competitors that he was very few people's second choice, so the quasi-"instant runnoff" aspect of the IA caucuses magnified his shortfall.

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3. Peter Caputa IV on February 3, 2004 5:16 PM writes...

the key thing: lowering coordination costs! right on.

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4. Terry Heaton on February 3, 2004 6:46 PM writes...

This is a great piece, Clay, but a bubble built by the illogic of Postmodern chaos can hardly be logically dissected when it bursts. The brilliant early campaign began to unravel the moment top-down methodology was applied. One can argue that there came a point that this was necessary, but was it really? When unconventional switches to conventional, it abandons entirely that which made it strong in the first place.

Were/are television ads necessary? No one will know until somebody gives it a whirl. In all the talk of new and different involving the Dean candidacy, nobody had the guts to stick it out...to continue being new and different.

When will we find the courage to stick with that which we believe? This is the real discussion we need to have.

Again, great piece.

Terry

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5. Lucas on February 3, 2004 6:51 PM writes...

"The press has a way of running fast epidemics, where an idea virus runs its course quickly, leaving everyone inoculated in its wake."

Insightful. Guy Debord (author of The Society of the Spectacle) would call it the commoditization of an idea, the association of an abstraction (Internet activism) with an instance of a concrete realization (Dean's campaign), played out in the context of the Spectacle. The speed of the virus is necessary to ensure that not more than one instance manifests, so that true abstraction cannot take place.

It is made possible by the presence of the mindset that you see with ugly American tourists who go on whirlwind tours of foreign countries and then nod knowingly any time they find themselves in conversations about one of them.

If Dean is remembered for anything it will be that his inept blunderings and smarmy mug neutralized the threat of Internet activism amongst a populace who has "been there, done that."

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6. mrsizer on February 4, 2004 12:03 AM writes...

The WaPo article made me cringe, this is the first time I'd seen it. Everyone was obviously drinking the Kool-Aide.

Your dissection is brilliant. This sort of analytical thinking is exacty what was missing from the campaign, at least based on the WaPo article. It's easy to feel good about yourself. It's a good bit more difficult to translate that into something useful or productive.

If it makes you feel any better, Republicans miss Dean, too.

Permalink to Comment

7. Constantine on February 4, 2004 12:24 AM writes...

I want to take issue with your claim that the canvassers were in some way inflating the number of 1s and 2s that they submitted.

First, the canvassing process is straightfoward in that you knock on a door and ask, "Hi, I'm from the HOward Dean campaign, do you know who you're supporting in the upcoming primary?" They give you an answer which gets rated on the 1 to 6 scale. Unless they want to ask you more about some of Howard Dean's positions, that's pretty much it. It's not an evangelism opportunity or a situation in which there's much room for interpretation.

Next, there's little motivation to inflate one's numbers. Not only is it expected that one will only get, at most, a few 1s (one or two 1s are considered a success), but ultimately your efforts are anonymous. Noone sees "Constantine found half-a-dozen 1s today in Salem!" emblazoned along the top of the canvassing form. The form just goes into a pile along with everyone else's. You hit the pavement, fill out your worksheet, drop it off, someone with a computer enters the results in. Rinse. Repeat.

What it came down to was that the Dean campaign didn't swing undecided voters in NH-- the ones that canvassing doesn't help to bring your way. That last week was crucial in determining the results of NH, when about 30% of people were still undecided. After Iowa, those undecided voters swung Kerry's way. Why? "Gut feel." The same "gut feel" that caused Dean to do so well up until the beginning of December brought him down in January. Dean wasn't able to beat out Kerry for the title of "go with your gut" vote. Those votes didn't come through for Dean, and he needed them.

You're right in that the good that volunteers can do is indirect. A lot of ground work needs to be done in a campaign, but a candidate and his inner circle of staff are responsible for creating that positive "gut feel" in the public perception.

Permalink to Comment

8. Scott Harris on February 4, 2004 1:20 AM writes...

On your point about support is not equal to votes. I donated $100.00 to Dick Gephardt, and am considering donating to Dean's campaign. But I will vote for George Bush in March and November. My donation to Gephardt was based on wanting a viable democrat in case Bush lost. My possible support of Dean is to extend the Democratic race even though I am a Republican and have never once, not once, voted for a Democrat.

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9. Berend de Boer on February 4, 2004 4:37 AM writes...

Very insightful, will use that in my political excursions as well. Thanks a lot.

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10. Marc Eisenstadt on February 4, 2004 5:19 AM writes...

Nice one! Brought me back to a great denial-of-the-obvious experience I had during the McGovern campaign of 1972: Having pounded the pavement for votes (and worked with a savvy hi-tech team that deployed computer-based demographic targeting in innovative ways, unlike the foolish and luddite opposition... we knew better, and had both correct thinking AND technology on our side!!), I sat in stunned disbelief as state after state overwhelmingly rejected McGovern. "Well, at least George will still take California" I consoled myself... after all, that's what my own canvassing had led me to believe... and waited for hours until the actual (and negative) California result came in... not realizing that McGovern had already conceded defeat in a national announcement.

Permalink to Comment

11. jeff on February 4, 2004 6:17 AM writes...

Excellant post. Although I label myself as a Libertarian/Republican, the Dean campaign was fascinating. The impact of his use of the internet will probably be felt for years to come. Someone should write a book on it and it looks like you have made a good start.

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12. JorgXMcKie on February 4, 2004 8:23 AM writes...

I have some contact with some Deaniacs (students, mostly) and what I noticed reflects on my days as a salesman. The "Media" or "Communications" people always think all you need to sell stuff is the right message about the right product. Any decent salesman will tell you that's stupid. Unless there is *no* differentiation between products, sooner or later a salesman has to *sell* somebody (i.e. change their mind). Sales must be made (closed). My best mentor asked me "When is the sale made?" His answer, "When you have his money in your pocket." The equivalent whould be "When your candidate has received his actual vote."
Messages are nice and can be helpful, but they don't close the sale.

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13. Arnold Kling on February 4, 2004 8:37 AM writes...

Although Clay's writing is passionate and articulate, it does not hang together.

Howard Dean really *was* ahead a month before Iowa. That's why Gore and others jumped on the bandwagon. His support was not solid, but neither was anybody's (even now, if Kerry commits a gaffe, his campaign will collapse and people will call it a bubble).

Dean blew it by appearing to be petulant, arrogant, and glib. See my essay, http://www.techcentralstation.com/020204A.html

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14. ruprecht on February 4, 2004 9:38 AM writes...

Dean appealed to the rightious anger of his followers, but when the dust settles people don't want an angry man near the nuclear football.

I think a similar dynamic played with McCain in 2000.

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15. Constantine on February 4, 2004 9:39 AM writes...

“Amateurs and zealots both have strong incentives not merely to misrepresent reality, but to actually misunderstand it.” ... They’re just loony.

Hm. I'm not sure that being an amateur makes one inherently loony. :) On a qualitative level, it's hard to argue with the idea that one can unconsciously "misunderstand reality." As I said, however, not only is there not much room to quanitatively have bad numbers (we'll discuss in a moment about whether the numbers themselves were useful), but also numbers of such support lined up with poll numbers in New Hampshire (I've got to leave Iowa out of this). Were Dean not ahead in the NH polls while the Dean campaign was trumpeting internal numbers that show things are going to be a blowout, that would be a case in which the nature of the campaign was making it impossible to gather good data. But the opposite happened. The data gathered lined up with what the public was seeing in the polls.

That said, one can discuss what canvassing is useful for. What guarantee is there that a "1" identified in November is going to vote for your candidate come late January? Probably none. The campaign seemed to use early 1s as resources to volunteer with the campaign or host house meetings, but that was probably a small fraction of overall 1s.

In a primary state, the evidence is that you can't create enough "solid" support early on to win. Rather, the evidence from the winning campaigns of Tsongas and Kerry, seems to be that one needs to get a flood of undecided voters to go your way over the last weekend... or, heck, Zogby was reporting that tracking polls swung to Kerry in a big way after 5pm on Monday. This would indicate to me that the myth of New Hampshire as the last bastion of door-to-door retail politics is vastly overstated.

Dean blew it by appearing to be petulant, arrogant, and glib.

You mean those things are bad? :) Shoot, now I'm being glib, aren't I?

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16. Jon Lebkowsky on February 4, 2004 11:38 AM writes...

Trackbacks are timing out, so I'll post this link here:

http://www.greaterdemocracy.org/mt/archives/000029.html

Summary: I think we should focus on building a progressive network, less so on specific candidates.

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17. Rick in NJ on February 4, 2004 1:15 PM writes...

Well said about Dean. But what about Kerry and Edwards? What did they do right? Why after running brain dead campaigns for the past year, did they suddenly catch fire. (The explanation that they just stole Dean's ideas is too simple) Why was Edwards, with much less experience than Howard Dean, considered more electable that Dean with many years of executive experience.

These are questions that are also relevant to this process and they dont' have answeres.

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18. Pat Curley on February 4, 2004 1:53 PM writes...

Great post-mortem review of the campaign. A couple points that I noticed as an outsider that were not covered:

1. The campaign did not tell us much about Howard Dean the man until the very end. Instead it was about Governor Dean's accomplishments in office--he balanced X budgets in a row, he got Y% of all kids in Vermont covered by health insurance, etc. This appeals to policy wonks, who are the only people paying attention early on, but the everyday voters want to get a feel for the person. Dean resisted that, apparently believing that he could win on a laundry list of positions. This is the technocrat fallacy.

2. The Perfect Storm in Iowa was a huge mistake. This is a tough lesson for young people to learn, but older folks are not going to listen to their political suggestions, so sending them door to door or even phone canvassing is counterproductive. I read on the Dean blog that one guy went to Iowa as part of a PunxforDean contingent, and all I could think of was a farmer opening his door to find a kid there with baggy pants, a backwards baseball cap and a ring through his nose telling him Howard Dean is the man to save America.

3. Avoid being cast as a candidate with one particular cause (e.g., the war in Iraq). If that one cause becomes stale-dated, so does your candidate. This can be tough, especially with the filter of the media, and Dean certainly owed much of his late-summer surge to the war issue.

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19. Mark on February 4, 2004 2:38 PM writes...

Great post.

Someone above suggested a book -- if you have the time (and inclination) I'd buy it. :-)

Thanks for sharing this.

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20. Keith Fulton on February 4, 2004 3:35 PM writes...

I think this essay gets a few things right about the internet-enabled inflation of Dean's apparent popularity, but like Dean himself, it overestimates the network's importance both his popularity and in his downfall.

It might be a surprise to people who are in the blogosphere all day every day, but the vast majority of people out there (Iowa voters, for example) do not read the blogs, get the editorials, or think about the prophetic words of Wired magazine and how this campaign is going to change politics forever. Instead, most people see the soundbites on the news, debrief about them with 2-3 friends and co-workers, and decide who they like best. Dean ended up not being very likable--his anger issues, ettiquette issues, essentially non-supportive wife, etc. all came to the fore somewhere in the last week before the Iowa primary. The Internet didn't change this and didn't counter this.

Secondly, Dean's message never changed. He beat the drum on anti-war, health care, etc. and pounded the typical liberal causes. When, as he now complains, the other candidates started adapting their messages to sound like his, his never extended into other areas. Where was his edge then? It didn't exist anymore. Once all the candidates were clear on bringing the UN into Iraq, health care, etc. all of Dean's differentiators were gone and all we were left with was the personal stuff I mentioned last paragraph. Even now his sole campaign message today seems to be the petulant complaint that the other candidates "stole" his message.

Too bad, Howard. That's what happens.

KWF

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21. MattS on February 4, 2004 3:59 PM writes...

Clay,

I think the reason that so many people got worked up about Dean is pretty simple. When was the last time a politician offered you a chance to share power?

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22. Alan Daniels on February 4, 2004 5:37 PM writes...

OT: My apologies for the multiple trackbacks. Apparently Moveable Type sends a trackback ping whenever an entry is changed, not just when its created.

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23. Pericles on February 4, 2004 8:02 PM writes...

Great. Now the same media types who were so eager to inflate the Dean campaign are now equally eager to pontificate over its demise. The fact that the hayseeds in Iowa picked the personality and idea-free candidate and the New Hampshirites followed them, lemming-like, over the cliff says much more about American culture than it does about Dean's campaign.

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24. Dave Rogers on February 4, 2004 8:52 PM writes...

"e fact that the hayseeds in Iowa picked the personality and idea-free candidate and the New Hampshirites followed them, lemming-like, over the cliff says much more about American culture than it does about Dean’s campaign."

Contempt for the electorate is not a winning strategy, I think.

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25. Clay Shirky on February 4, 2004 10:50 PM writes...

_I think the reason that so many people got worked up about Dean is pretty simple. When was the last time a politician offered you a chance to share power?_

The problem with this thesis is that the offer to share power obviously didn't do much on the voting front, so it obviously wasn't as strong or broad an offer as you imagine.

Furthermore, Dean's "you have the power" rant was dishonest.

The voter only has one very limited bit of power -- to cast judgment between the choices on offer. Dean was grossly overstating the degree to which voters could be empowered in a system of representative democracy.

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26. Bob Jacobson on February 5, 2004 2:11 AM writes...

Many of these issue were in fact boiling in the cauldron of the grassroots, but it became bad taste to point out The Emperor's New Clothes. (This is the one thing that's changed, a little late in the game.)

But no one in Central Casting was paying any attention. No one still is.

When we created a 50-person strong expert team to moderate a forum on Dean's policies -- something widely requested by potential supporters -- HQs response was to firewall it.

The grassroots is now organizing events and activities, and even paying out of its pockets for print and radio ads, while the DFA is pontificating about how it should relate to this phenomenon.

In fact, the campaign, which promoted a "greater democracy," was hardly democratic itself. The grassroots that sustained the campaign, that gave it life (and money), had no representation to speak of. It still does not.

Finally, on the IT front: Convio and MeetUp were great for building the campaign. The blogs did virtually nothing. What was missing, and still is missing, is a competent campaign management system. The campaign could have had this weeks ago, before the Iowa caucus. No one at HQ was interested. No one still is.

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27. hugh macleod on February 5, 2004 8:45 AM writes...

Great post, Clay, as always. Back when I was in college I was dating this really cute girl who also happened to be a bit of a politcal activist of the Marxist pursusion. Her friends would sit around the cofee shop for hours, talking about the Revolution, utterly convinced that there was this great, unstoppable sea of "workers" ready to join their cause, just as soon as they got organized properly. Right. The Deanies kinda reminded me of them.

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28. Out4Blood on February 5, 2004 10:29 AM writes...

Excellent article. Whether Clay has hit the mark or not, it's certainly something worth discussing.

Is a "grassroots"/"Internet" campaign any more/less than a "real" campaign?

Or did he just fall victim to "real" politics at a critical time?

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29. james on February 5, 2004 11:48 AM writes...

I think you guys should read what Tim Ireland has to say at bloggerheads

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30. Clay Shirky on February 5, 2004 2:19 PM writes...

But Tim Ireland was wrong -- weblogs weren't as important as he predicted after all.

Even more than my surprise at the evaporation of Dean's putative lead, the ignorance of Dean supporters has left me breathless. There has been an idea floating around that Dean would be propelled to victory based on his innovative use of tools like weblogs. And we tested that idea. And it failed. And the Dean people seem not to get that.

This doesn't mean that weblogs aren't important, but it does mean that hyperbole like Ireland's piece at bloggerheads should be regarded with the critical distance that shows us that the guy who made the best and most imaginative use of weblogs was crushed. Not just 'failed to win enough delegates' crushed, but 0-9 crushed, third place except NH crushed. Often fell beneath the 15% threshold crushed.

In the first large primary in the nation, last Tuesday, Dean got *3* delegates. To put that in perspective, Edwards got 66. Al Sharpton got 1, two less than Dean.

The idea of pointing to a piece that says "Rah rah weblogs, they give campaigns the Google juice that voters crave" _after_ we have real numbers to look at is just stupid.

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31. Jock Gill on February 5, 2004 3:06 PM writes...

I offer the term "blogochamber" to describe blogs that believe their own press. Of course most blogs do not, but some clearly do.

I would also point out that crusaders and true believers tend to scare moderate folks. Scared foks simply will not vote for you.

So how do we maximize the value of high energy volunteers? What are the leadership and training roles of a headquarters here?

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32. J in CA on February 5, 2004 3:51 PM writes...

Clay's piece has some excellent reasoning and observation. Speaking as one who has yet to exit Deanspace (I'm willing to wait and see how Wisconsin goes) I think there is plenty to be learned from what Clay has written.

I would like to ask folks here what they think about the theory of "the media" playing the build-him-up and tear-him-down game for ratings as being a primary cause for the dissonace between expectation and reality?

Further, why is it assumed Dean is dead all ready with only 10% of the delegates decided? In a smoothe sample, 10% is certainly enough to draw reasonably sound conclusions, but given the fractious and discordant nature of differing states' personalities, why is it generally assumed this internet-enabled experiment is over all ready?

I'll acknowledge I was subject to a number of the misapprehensions Clay points out above, and I thank him for the discussion. But given the reversals we have all ready seen, I'm willing to stay in Deanspace a bit longer.

Thanks.

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33. James on February 5, 2004 4:48 PM writes...

Clay - you seemed to have missed the point about Dean being top down and most political blogs in the UK being bottom up. Also, you seem not to you have read the piece on front page of bloggerheads. Personally I'd say, basing your argument on one blog is stupid.


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34. John Coate on February 5, 2004 5:31 PM writes...

It looks like the Net strategy was the part the Dean campaign got right. Everything else seems to have been mishandled in some important way. They used the Net to get the initial group together, raise money, organize events and bring in volunteers.

But what they did with it was a lot less impressive. They spent too much too fast, they had lousy TV ads, the orange hat outsider brigade turned a lot of people off. It is possible that if Joe Trippi and his group just did the Net part and someone with broader and better campaign skills managed the larger campaign, they might have done a lot better.

But then, maybe not - I wondered some weeks ago if the cost of getting Net savvy supporters together was so low that Dean had already gathered them and there woudln't be many more. He was not able to convince voters other than those who were furious at Bush's war that he was the best man. This he has to take responsibility for himself.

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35. Laurent on February 5, 2004 5:33 PM writes...

The "Whatever it takes" bloc

I think the core reason is a very simple, and it's right in the middle of your essay...

It's clear that a huge portion of the Democratic vote is being driven by a desire to displace Bush. To that end, there's a huge flexible voting bloc that basically intends to vote for whoever ends up as the Democratic candidate.

During the primary process, if you ask a member of this bloc who they intend to vote for, they're always going to cite the current apparent front-runner, because that's the person who seems most likely to unseat Bush at the moment.

Dean's apparent margin in NH and any other state was real, for as long as he was seen as the legitimate front-runner for the party. The Internet played a role in helping Dean establish that role, but I don't think it played an enormous role in overstating that advantage, or in creating a thin level of support that was uniquely fragile. It's just that there's a very fickle, results-driven bloc in the middle of the party this year, and they left Dean in the dust as soon as they smelled fallibility.

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36. Donald from Hawaii on February 5, 2004 6:21 PM writes...

RE: Scott Harris -- "My possible support of Dean is to extend the Democratric race even though I am a Republican and never once, not once, voted for a Democrat."

Then you're blindly supporting a president who:

-- looked the American people in the eye on January 28, 2003 and blatantly lied about a matter of war and peace in his State of the Union message, by knowingly hyping a fictitious "imminent threat" from Iraq, which directly led to his commencment of a war for entirely bogus reasons, and resulted in the deaths of over 500 Americans, 100 British, scores of allied troops (Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Bulgarian), and thousands of Iraqis;

-- squandered the world's goodwill in the aftermath of 9-11 in but two years, nearly succeeding in turning our country into an international pariah;

-- purposefully stonewalls the 9-11 Commission by confiscating the notes of commission members who examined the Aug. 6, 2001 presidential security briefing on the looming threat from al Qa'eda, violating an agreement with Chairman Thomas Kean and leaving 9-11 survivors to wonder what his administration is hiding;

-- Allowed "senior administration officials" to illegally disclose to sympathetic media shill Bob Novak the name of a CIA operative (working on the proliferation of WMD, no less) for purely partisan political purposes, endangering her life and the lives of her family, and possibly contributing to the needless deaths of upwards of 70 of her foreign contacts;

-- Has irresponsibly squandered a potential $5 trillion budget surplus left him by his predecessor Bill Clinton, parlaying it into a half-trillion dollar annual deficit.

-- Purposely low-balled the predicted cost of the recently passed Medicare Bill by some $135 billion, thus lying to members of Congress and the American public to justify a half-trillion dollar corporate giveaway;

-- etc., etc., etc.

And you continue to support him. How utterly and sadly pathetic.

Save your blood money, Scott.

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37. Ethan Stock on February 5, 2004 8:46 PM writes...

Does Clay Shirky's Howard Dean piece fundamentally question the value of social software?

Excerpt from my blog post:
Clay's outstanding analysis of Dean and the Internet points us toward this final, most worrisome point. Dean's Internet supporters did a superb, net-enabled job of finding each other, communicating with each other, creating buzz, and even raising money -- but they failed at achieving their core goal and metric, which was to get votes for Dean. If other social Internet phenomenona such as SNS are similarly inept at their intended purpose -- be it finding dates, selling stuff, or whatever -- they will similarly implode, because all the metrics we're using to measure their success, such as new users and rate of uptake, are as irrelevant as were the Deaniacs and their ultimately ephemeral movement.

Read more at onotech.blogspot.com

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38. slam on February 5, 2004 8:48 PM writes...

I'll give credit to Clay Shirky for a decent piece but stop with they extreme praise and adulation.

The writer of this excellent editorial nails the #1 reason why Dean lost his front runner position

Answer: Corporate America decided that Dean must be savaged, and its media sector made it happen.

http://www.blackcommentator.com/75/75_cover_dean_media_pf.html

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39. Clay Shirky on February 5, 2004 8:54 PM writes...

_Corporate America decided that Dean must be savaged, and its media sector made it happen_

Oh please.

This kind of "If we lost, it must be a conspiracy" rant is a pretty sure way to keep losing.

And for anyone to be blaming the media, who gave Dean 9 months of publicity you literally could not have paid for is absurd. Go read that Washington Post love-in on Dean before you start spinning absurd tales of media beatdowns.

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40. Joseppi on February 5, 2004 8:56 PM writes...

This article fails to address so many things.

First, the effect of having 4 candidates simultaneously running against Dean.

Second, the media hyping a non-existant Dean anger issue.

Third, the fact that the majority of voters are STILL totally ignorant of where the various candidates stand on issues.

Finally, the fact that Dean is honest to a fault. Reporters hate honesty and Democratic primary voters fear that "other people" will too.

I'll be staying home in November while the Iraq war voting Kerry and Edwards get their asses handed to them for being feckless phonies willing to say anything to get elected.

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41. natasha on February 6, 2004 12:59 AM writes...

While I'll agree in retrospect that the orange hats may have been too glaring a reminder that we were all from elsewhere, the pierced teenager population of the Perfect Storm has been greatly exaggerated. The Seattle delegation probably averaged out at some age a bit past 40. The people specifically tasked with outreach were either local union members or respected professionals charged with contacting other professionals. In fact, the age range at volunteer headquarters was probably about what you'd find in a large company during summer intern season. Mostly mature people, very normal looking in our cold weather gear. There was also a sizable contingent of retirees, grandparents, and the like. Most of the paid staff were generally pretty young, true. But politics pays peanuts at that level, and you either have to be too young to have expenses, or successful enough not to need the money to put up with it.

The fact that US news camera crews seemed to home in on and almost exclusively follow the youngest and least articulate people available at any given time constituted in itself a misrepresentation of who was there. I say US camera crews, because the Dutch and Japanese crews tended not to do that. It was a frequent source of irritation among many of us, highlighted by a comment by the campaign photographer at the bloggers' breakfast (the average age was 40 at least, and that may be a lowball) that it was the "most mature looking group of 18 year olds I've ever seen." Even in the cabins where you'd expect the age range to be quite tilted downward, I stayed in a cabin where I was often the youngest person there at not-quite-30. A neighboring bunkee had worked on the Kennedy campaign, and three others were professionals living abroad in Tokyo who'd paid their way over just to canvas. But of course, the news crew went looking and found a cabin brim full of people to film who were immature in both senses of the word.

And as far as the canvassing. The people I canvassed with and spoke to were under no compulsion to produce a certain number of supporters, as another commenter suggested. I recorded my numbers accurately, and was never pressured about them by anyone. I didn't spend a lot of time phone banking, but the only thing I was questioned about was whether or not I had something to leave at the main desk as a 'deposit' on the campaign cell phone I used.

However, the script we were told to use did put too much emphasis on where we'd traveled from. Now, every national campaign uses out of state people to some extent or another, but this was perhaps the first to suggest that people would be interested to know it. In retrospect, I'd agree with the assessment that many of them weren't, though I did have a couple people tell me that they were impressed by it. The problem is that in face to face contact, if it irritated anyone, they probably wouldn't say.

Other factors are the push polling and robo calling, which really did happen, even if we don't entirely know who did it. 'Surveyors' asked people if they'd still support Dean if they were told that he was an environmental racist. Supporters were robo called with incorrect caucus locations. (The Dean campaign, at this point in our history, doesn't do robo calls. We have a lot of manpower, and use it.)

An additional factor is that, unscientific as the anecdotes I heard were, some of our supporters were so sure we'd win that they stayed home. They thought it was a done deal.

And press coverage in that last week went harshly negative. The ads didn't help us, but being portrayed as a cult-like horde of teenagers following an angry man who would never be able to win an election didn't help persuade the undecideds, either. And the press covering Dean was cranky. There were 55 of them, and on two consecutive days before the caucus, they'd been stuck with cold showers in the morning because the hotels had run out. They howled when Dean decided on observation that the retinue was taking up so much room at the MLK memorial service that it would be better to leave instead of crowd out local attendees.

And they made the main issue of the campaign electability. This was a media theme harped on extensively beginning shortly before the caucus and until now. What it means, I can't say for sure, but it has a lot to do with not doing anything notable on camera. Also, it seems to mean having a wife with nothing else to do but sit on the campaign bus and stand on stage. Bob Somerby dissected the attacks on Judy Dean pretty well the other day, but it was one of many petty diversions.

These are the same people who were at one time obsessed with John Kerry's hair and Wesley Clark's sweaters. I've never heard anyone who wasn't a journalist bring these issues up on their own.

The media have not been in this, and aren't in most things, objective observers. They had fun talking about the novelty of the Dean campaign until he started talking about media deregulation and they started wondering when they could go back to covering normal campaigns. Just as voters listening to the media drumbeat in 2000 started off thinking that the election was about healthcare and jobs and finished thinking it was about who they wanted to have a beer with, the press tends to define the topics of debate.

The New Hampshire exit poll asked about the electability of only one candidate. The results were trumpeted all over the airwaves, but it should tell anyone something that they did only ask it about one candidate.

Still, both Clinton and Reagan lost a whole bunch of states before winning even one. It's a little early for reviews of the campaign to have the atmosphere of a post-mortem.

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42. Tim Ireland on February 6, 2004 4:20 AM writes...

Howard Dean's blog is *not* a genuine weblog by a politician, in that it is primarily written by his staff. It's a campaign channel at best. Wesley Clark and that guy pretending to be your president followed this model. Clay; '...the best and most imaginative use of weblogs' is a generous way of putting it, but you're considering a pretty narrow field where everybody is getting it wrong.

I'll paste the pointy things from my blog that relate directly to this here (because I'm a lazy sod and still haven't migrated to a format that allows for permalinks):

1. I never believed in Howard Dean as a blogger, because he didn't run a genuine blog.

2. I've mentioned that before, but didn't make a bunch of shouty negative noise about it, because I hoped it would turn and light would dawn on marble heads. Sadly...

3. I still believe in the power of the lower-ranks-up movement in the UK, which has set a very healthy precedent of direct, personal and actual blogging from the elected indyvijules themselves.

4. U.S. Senators are still left without a blog format because of the way things are set up. You can still change that:
http://www.bloggerheads.com/senator_weblog.asp

5. It has to be noted that Clark *and* Bush launched blogs along simian lines (i.e. 'monkey see') and produced equally soulless campaigning wastelands.

It's still early days in the UK, but we have actual elected officials personally communicating with their constituents and the online community in general. (In fact, even though he has linked to his blog in the relevant posts, it seems to have escaped your notice that the man who brought my comments to your attention - James Mills - is a Conservative Councillor.)

None of these people are going to be PM tomorrow, but then we're not shooting for the big enchilada. Nor, however, are we firing blanks.

The trend in the UK that has seen a number of MPs and other elected officials discovering what an efficient two-way communications channel can do has helped these people move forward with problems and issues they face (either with feedback, information or action) and has even prompted questions in parliament on a number of occasions.

To enjoy a similar effect in the US, you need a few senators and congressmen doing the same thing. Sadly, they must publish and senate.gov and house.gov respectively. Neither of these publishing platforms allow for a weblog format. For that to happen, at least three senators/congressmen need to ask for it.

So, instead of sitting here moaning about a guy who didn't really blog and isn't going to be president, perhaps we can all take a small step forward and contact our local elected representative. It involves getting of your arse and actually doing something, but shit, that's how things get *done*...

Cheers all.

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43. scott huminski on February 6, 2004 8:13 AM writes...


In the Iowa Presidential Debate of 1/04/04, Howard Dean stated concerning the Vermont gubernatorial records lawsuit that,

"What we have done is we have stepped aside. We have turned everything over to the attorney general of the state of Vermont. And the attorney general of the state of Vermont will go to court, and a judge will look over every document in our records. And they are free to release whatever they'd like, and that's fine with me."

On 12/08/03, Dean made the same statement to the press. Sandwiched in between these two public statements, on 12/23/03 in Washington County Superior Court, Dean demands that the Court, "dismiss the complaint and deny all relief requested by the plaintiffs".

Dean's public statements and his court filings can't both be true.

Unfortunately, for the man who appointed the vast majority of the Vermont judiciary, a defendant in a civil lawsuit can not "step aside". One would expect that the man who appointed judges for over a decade in Vermont and who now wishes to appoint federal judges could grasp this fundamental legal concept. Smoke, mirrors and deception. Defendant Dean, is this the candor we can expect from you, your campaign and your appointees such as Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Howard - - no comment - - Dean

Conflict of Interest infected Dean’s Vermont Record concerning police shooting. Dean refuses multiple press requests for comment.

On two consecutive days, Dean’s campaign refused to respond to press requests from Connecticut and Vermont newspapers about his corrupt behavior concerning his conflict of interest with William Sorrell, Vermont Attorney General, related to a police shooting and how that conflict tainted his decision relating to the appointment of a special prosecutor. No comment. Couldn’t be reached. Wouldn’t return calls. See articles below.


Two years ago, Dean was petitioned by grieving friends of a slain Vermont man (Justice for Woody) to appoint a special prosecutor/investigator to look into the police shooting. The group strongly objected to the results of an investigation conducted by William Sorrell, Vermont Attorney General. Dean accepted the request to look at the matter and take appropriate action if he deemed it appropriate.

When Dean accepted the report from the Justice for Woody people he failed to disclose to the group that he had an enormous conflict of interest with William Sorrell and he would never undermine his friend’s report on the shooting. To do so would usurp his friends authority and put into question Sorrell’s abilities and judgment.

See, Cronies v. Qualifications, Howard Dean’s Dilemma

http://sandiego.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/100936.shtml

In many State’s Dean’s conduct would be criminal under conflict of interest statutes. Not so in Dean’s Vermont. Maybe his failure to disqualify himself from evaluating his Crony’s report may not be criminal, but, it was a breach of moral and ethical standards that would apply to any profession. It’s not necessary to debate the facts of the police shooting or to even review the reports available on the issue to make a finding of corruption against Dean for failing to recuse from the matter because of a vast conflict with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

Dean left Vermont in a hopeless state of corruption. Conflict of interest and even acceptance of bribes by government officials are part of doing business for Vermont government officials. When quizzed by a journalist last month about official bribery cover-up in Vermont, Sorrell responded, like Dean, with no comment. Why doesn’t Dean wish to address the conflict of interest charges leveled at him in the below articles? Similarly, why did Dean try to seal his records for 20 years? There’s much more to look at in Vermont. We can start with Dean’s #1 appointee and favorite crony, Vermont Attorney General, William Sorrell.

--------------------------------------------
Friends of shooting victim say Howard Dean failed him

By ADAM BOWLES


Norwich Bulletin, 12/02/03


Two years after a Norwich Free Academy graduate was fatally shot by police while inside a Vermont church, Robert Woodward's friends claim that presidential candidate Howard Dean mishandled the case.

Woodward's supporters are upset that Dean, governor of Vermont at the time of the shooting, did not appoint an independent investigation into the shooting.

Dean, instead, said he was comfortable with a report by the state attorney general that cleared the police of any wrongdoing, the supporters say.

Members of the "Justice for Woody" group say Dean and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell are lifelong friends and that Sorrell's family helped launch Dean's political career.

"We feel that (Dean) purposely did not want to cross his friend, his political crony of several decades who probably has aspirations to be part of a Dean presidential cabinet," said Keith Carlson, a member of Justice for Woody. "We may not be the ones to prove it. But the public has the right to know."

Members of the group are marking the anniversary of Woodward's death with a silent march today in downtown Brattleboro.

Dean's press office said Monday that the leading Democratic presidential candidate would not comment for this story. His spokesman did not return phone calls to the press office Monday.

FULL STORY:

http://www.norwichbulletin.com/news/stories/20031202/localnews/746805.html

*** END ***

See also,

Brattleboro Reformer, 12/03/03

"Calls to Dean's national campaign office were not returned Tuesday."

http://www.reformer.com/Stories/0,1413,102~8860~1805664,00.html


-------------------------------------------------

This corruption is also mentioned at below link along with Sorrell's cover-up of bribery and violation of criminal federal civil rights law. Dean sure chooses interesting cronies.

http://hawaii.indymedia.org/news/2003/09/3802.php


If there is any question as to the ties between these two unsavory politicians......


http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2003/09/22/a_meteoric_rise_in_vermont_politics/

See the 4th paragraph in this link, Sorrell and Dean are as close as family,


http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/dean/dean062303/dean062303spt.html


http://www.atg.state.vt.us/display.php?smod=70

http://www.justiceforwoody.org/media/articles/html/casa1.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/dean/dean0702/freyneint.html

http://rutlandherald.nybor.com/News/Story/68525.html

http://www.rutlandherald.com/News/Story/66910.html

http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2003/09/8836.php

Commentary and compilation by Scott Huminski

s_huminski@hotmail.com

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44. Matthew J. Dundon on February 6, 2004 9:12 AM writes...

Very well put. The observation that Meetup lowered the "cost" of putting together meetings and led to a gross overestimation of Dean's hardcore support was a particularly important insight.

I'm a staunch Republican, but I think that Dean and his backers are to be thanked for breaking out the Internet fully as a powerful tool for true grass-roots fundraising and organizing, not intermediated by any larger institutions. The death grip of large institutions (of the left, at least as much of the right) on political discourse is the main hindrance to advancing thoughful debate.

My hope is that the unjustified inferences Dean's team drew from its Internet successes (and the strategic errors it made on the bases of those inferences) don't lead people to disregard the truth of the underlying tangible achievements.

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45. John Coate on February 6, 2004 12:34 PM writes...

It is true that the press did rip Dean for some pretty superficial things like deciding he was "angry" and such, even after first building him up. But that is what happens, especially with an insurgent-type candidacy. His campaign people should have known that and planned for it.

Trippi was brilliant and his use of the Internet historic. But his experience had always been with insurgent campaigns (Ted Kennedy, Jerry Brown, etc) that got people fired up early on but untimately went nowhere.

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46. Patty in VT on February 6, 2004 1:05 PM writes...

I think there is a nugget of truth in this analysis...but it completely fails to address the enormous convergence of other factors which undermined Dean and his campaign as a whole.

Factors like --
1) Dick Gephardt's murder-suicide/scorched-earth advertising campaign
2) The Media's "Get Dean!" dogpile
3) Attack ads by the Republican Club for Growth PAC
4) Attack ads by anonymous Kerry/Gephardt supporter PAC
5) Poor organization and a lack of maturity and experience on the part of Dean campaign staffers in both Iowa and NH.
6) Awful, awful, awful bland-boring-blah ads produced for Dean by Trippi, McMahon, and Squier
7) Push polling and other dirty tactics by the Kerry camp

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and if we don't analyze ALL of the above both separately and as a whole, we miss out on some important lessons going forward.

The list above is so disheartening to me...and yet... it's amazing to me that Howard did as well as he did in IA and NH, considering the onslaught of both attacks and circumstances he endured -- most of which were totally beyond his locus of control. I know it's a long shot, but I really hope he bounces back.

Not only does America need Howard. The whole WORLD needs Howard.

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47. chuck on February 6, 2004 1:16 PM writes...

Just as an Iowan who did caucus - I gotta say, I think Dean lost here because of the ADS. I really do.

For example, I caucused for Kucinich, and when he wasn't viable, I had to choose a #2. Why didn't I choose Dean? Between him and Gephardt, I had so much negative crap in my mail, I couldn't stand to reward that kind of campaign. So I chose Edwards.

Not that I don't like Dean, I think he would have been a great nominee. I just think the TV and lit made him look worse than he is.

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48. Parknfly on February 6, 2004 1:31 PM writes...

The idea that reality is NOT amenable to believers acts is false. This article perputates the infuriating myth that belief is useless in the face of "reality".

It's fairly obvious if you look around you that what people do matters. What you do matters.

Dean's organization on the ground in Iowa sucked in light of the type of election process there and it was no wonder he did not do well there. Politics is hard, but if you watch Dean's speeches you will see that he speaks from his heart to ours. JFK did that. Ronald Reagan did that. Bill Clinton did that. Belief IS the thing that changes reality. The rest of the article and most of these comments are appologia from people willing to be losers.

Get off your asses and push! That's what makes the difference. It's not too late...yet.

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49. Jim Elve on February 7, 2004 5:59 AM writes...

As an American ex-pat living in Canada for the past 33 years, I've been following the Dean campaign closely. Your analysis in this post and your previous one on the subject is insightful and accurate.

In light of the recently published Harris poll results (http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=436), though, we may all need to take a step back and consider whether "The internet is now, and from now on, a political media channel." Harris reports that only 4% of those polled even vist a candidate's website.

I quote the poll:

"Only quite small minorities of those online do any of the following more than three times a month:

-Visit a candidate’s website (4%)
-Look online for information about a candidate for the 2004 election (8%)
-Look online for information about a political issue (17%)."

We pundit bloggers (yes, I'm one, too) may be falling victim to the same self-inflated overconfidence that felled Dean. While the net may, indeed, be a political channel, not very many people are tuned into that channel...yet.

Eventually, the day will come when internet voting is a viable option. It's not a pipe dream. B2B sales and cash transfers in the millions and billions take place online daily. Anyone with a credit card can buy and sell big ticket items on eBay. To think that the internet can never be secure enough to offer an alternative to the Florida fiasco is naive.

When that day comes - and it may happen in someplace like Sweden, Norway or Canada before it happens in the US - then meet-ups and online organization *will* translate into votes.

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50. Pat McGuinness on February 7, 2004 12:36 PM writes...

Thanks for a brilliant analysis of the Dean phenom. A few other key Tripping Points for Dean.
1. He was selling a message not himself.
2. When HE became the story, he didnt come off well. example: When he told off that voter in Iowa. Kerry OTOH brought up hisbiography in a flattering way.

Dean sold a MESSAGE. Smart candidates sell THEMSELVES.

And lets look at how great this anti-Bush message is anyway. Another poster puts the charges up:

"blatantly lied about a matter of war and peace in his State of the Union message, by knowingly hyping a fictitious “imminent threat” from Iraq, which directly led to his commencment of a war for entirely bogus reasons,"

WOW! Look at the extremist absolutism of this charge. Not that some things may have been exagerated but it was "entirely bogus". Here we have Saddam Hussein, who after the fact was found to be developng missiles and trying to buy technology from North Korea, who had chemical and biological weapons programs which David Kay says were clearly violating UN resolutions and were successfully being hidden. Now, in that same State of the Union, Bush mentioned the "torture chambers", which were indeed opened a few months later. In one case, a prison for children in Baghdad was found. So two was found the terrorist training camps, Ansar Al-Islam camp, and a palestinian terrorist training ground. So too was found further evidence linking Saddam to Al Qaeda (some documented in the 50 points of contact memo from October 2003).

The verbiage about 'imminent threat' is telling. Bush never used that term except to point out that post-9/11 we could never tell whether a threat was imminent until it was too late. This is proving true in the wake of the discovery of nuclear technology transfers.

So the truth is more like this, that part of the reasoning behind the assessment of the threat was faulty, but that Saddam's regime fully had the intentions and the long-term danger expressed in the run-up to the war. Conclusion - the war was justified and the right thing to do in the post 9/11 environment.

"and resulted in the deaths of over 500 Americans, 100 British, scores of allied troops (Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Bulgarian), and thousands of Iraqis;"

And which also led to the liberation of Iraq - 24 million people - from a regime that brutalized its own people. It led to uncovering hundreds of mass graves that contained thousands of victims. It led to the replacement of a fascist dictatorship with what we should hope is a free and democratic Iraq.


"squandered the world’s goodwill in the aftermath of 9-11 in but two years, nearly succeeding in turning our country into an international pariah;"
Nice talking points, but like the "unilateralist" line, ignores realities (eg working with 30+ nations in Iraq, working with UN, NATO etc. in Afghanistan, good collaboration on anti-proliferation, etc.) So the Euro-left hates Bush and US more than American liberals hate Bush.
That's not "the world".

"— purposefully stonewalls the 9-11 Commission by confiscating the notes of commission members who examined the Aug. 6, 2001 presidential security briefing on the looming threat from al Qa’eda, violating an agreement with Chairman Thomas Kean and leaving 9-11 survivors to wonder what his administration is hiding;"

This sounds way too Grassy Knoll for me.
Actually it sounds like "Where did Hillary hide the Rose Law Firm billing records?"

"— Allowed “senior administration officials” to illegally disclose to sympathetic media shill Bob Novak the name of a CIA operative (working on the proliferation of WMD, no less)"

Whoa "allowed"? Every leak is approved by the Prez?!? Get real. Although Novak said CIA didnt mind him releasing the info, this is a serious matter ... but you ruin it with unfoundedly accusing the President and with hyperbole like "... for purely partisan political purposes, endangering her life and the lives of her family, and possibly contributing to the needless deaths of upwards of 70 of her foreign contacts;" Wow, mindblowing partisan hyperbole. Novak claimed that the CIA official designated to talk to him "asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause ''difficulties'' if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered."


"— Has irresponsibly squandered a potential $5 trillion budget surplus left him by his predecessor Bill Clinton,"
There never was a real surplus, it was a mirage built on a 5000 Nasdaq and ignoring a recession/bubble burst that started in 2000. By Jan 20, 2001, there already was a recession and revenue falloff underway. 9/11 accelerated this condition, and of course war-on-terror and homeland security redoubled the impact. The surplus was gone by then. Not that it would have stayed anyway: the debate in 2000 in Gore v Bush was whether to blow the surplus on bigger spending or tax cuts. It seems based on actions since, we've decided to do both. Curiously, our economy has surged in the last 2 quarters after the tax cuts took hold in may 2003. So the help to economy may outweigh the harm to deficit.

My point is not that you dont have a valid critique (deficit spending) lying underneath the pile of rhetoric, but that you're constructing hyperbolic 'facts' to fit the argument not the other way round. Guess what? That 'effect' is what the original author is talking about. At what point did Dean just so totally adopt the mindset of his followers and be the 'anti-Bush' bashing the current administration that he forget to SELL HIMSELF AS A CANDIDATE? I mean in a positive way, not through negativism vis a vis Gephardt, Bush, 'washington insiders', etc.

"Purposely low-balled the predicted cost of the recently passed Medicare Bill by some $135 billion, thus lying to members of Congress and the American public to justify a half-trillion dollar corporate giveaway;"

Yup, I understand the complaint (they didnt publicize HHS actuarial numbers widely), but to be fair the Congress uses CBO numbers for budget purposes, and the CBO number was $400 billion. Now there were conservatives in Congress demanding a cap in the cost last summer ($400 billion and no more). Did they get the cost cap in the bill? The question for voters though is not exact cost, but whether adding a drug benefit to medicare is overall a good thing or a bad thing. i.e. is the real bill and the real cost worth it?

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51. It's the media Stupid on February 7, 2004 11:42 PM writes...

Clay Shirky's Exiting Deanspace is good but IS NOT a landmark essay.

The main reason for the "failing" of Howard Dean had to do with the THE AWESOME DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF THE CORPORATE POWER MEDIA

Corporate America decided that Dean must be savaged, and its media sector made it happen.

Read this editorial that has excellent perspective ( more than Shirkey )

http://www.blackcommentator.com/75/75_cover_dean_media_pf.html

As you're reading it repeat 10 times slowly.

It's the media Stupid.

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52. Ian Robertson on February 8, 2004 12:28 PM writes...

This is really an excellent and insightful piece. Let me add one small observation of my own which does sort of coincide with the thoughts in this piece. I think that people on the political fringes join political movements not for the purpose of acheiving results but for the purpose of belonging to a community of the likeminded. Does the traveling circus surrounding WTO meeting really believe they will change the world by rioting in Seattle and other places? More important to the participants in such movements is just belonging to the social community. In fact the actions of the community may even be completely counter productive to its intended goal and the members happily continue ever onward. So, outside observers of such movements should realize that the purpose of the movement is not success, it is continued existance. I think that, as usual, monty python has captured this phenomenon in Life of Brian with Cleese's little cult, the PFJ. What a useless bunch but they are happy that way. A reading of the Dean Blog pages now shows a preponderance of posters who have become cult followers, they no longer hate Bush half as much as they hate Kerry. Above all they adore Howard and will follow their diety anywhere. Those who worried that an internet driven campaign was inherently chaotic and prone to hijacking were absolutely correct. Dean himself at times seems to have been hypnotized into believing in the self-contained delusional reality of the cult which has been creating around him. This is a danger that future mainstream political campaigns which seek the power of the internet will have to avoid if they expect to acheive something real. Again, a great piece by Clay.

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53. Elvin Stumpwater on February 9, 2004 2:51 PM writes...

Remind me again how when mass media acts as it's designed to, it's labeled a conspiracy by anyone who would dismiss it as the dominant factor?

Excuse me, undecided was always the front runner. The Dean campaign always knew this and asked supporters to work harder. And Dean's speeches always cautioned against looking at polls.

The campaign chest was not blown. Dean ended NH with five times more cash on hand than Kerry. Even bloggers believe what they hear on TV?

Very shallow pomo analysis ignoring when people attempt change, there necessarily will be a lot of associated "support."

The Iowa mistake was only not getting the Dean campaign started a year earlier.

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54. Clay Shirky on February 9, 2004 5:55 PM writes...

_Remind me again how when mass media acts as it’s designed to, it’s labeled a conspiracy by anyone who would dismiss it as the dominant factor?_

This would be an eaiser analysis to support if the media had not also had a hand in endorsing Dean as the frontrunner.

_Excuse me, undecided was always the front runner. The Dean campaign always knew this and asked supporters to work harder. And Dean’s speeches always cautioned against looking at polls._

It didn't work, though. Your idea of how the Dean campaign worked runs around on the rocks of reality.

_The campaign chest was not blown. Dean ended NH with five times more cash on hand than Kerry. Even bloggers believe what they hear on TV?_

5 times more is not the same as not blowing the campaign chest. Kerry was able to raise money after his wins. Dean, meantime, was forced to cut back dramatically on spending.

_The Iowa mistake was only not getting the Dean campaign started a year earlier._

The Iowa mistake was not convincing enough people to vote for him. The campaign has made that mistake a dozen times in a row now.

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55. tencentlife on February 10, 2004 12:43 PM writes...

Clay, nice job. A quite trenchant dissection of the campaign from the POV of a net-savvy technologist. I say that only because, by inviolable nature, our assessment of events is limited by our access to them and each's own closely-held biases, a point which I believe echoes one of your major themes in this piece: it's what happens in the real world that determines outcomes, no matter what one has become convinced is about to happen. You cover this vital fact from several different angles in the context of the Dean campaign.

I love the following paragraph. Everyone who dabbles in democracy should have this tattooed on their brain:

"Voting in particular is designed as a repudiation of Mead’s notion. In the line at the polling booth, the guy with the non-ironic trucker hat and nothing other than an instinct for who he trusts cancels the vote of the politics junkie who can tell you the name of Joe Lieberman’s Delaware field manager."

However, one small criticism on content, stemming from this bit:

"Here’s a catchy phrase: “Design, Create, Produce to Elect Governor Howard Dean for President.” That’s the slogan atop DeanMediaTeam.com; can you spot the error? (and we’ll let the fact that Dean is not currently Governor slide.)"

Ex-Governors are still Governors, along with Ex-Presidents, VP's, Senators and the like. These titles are won for life, and although placing the qualifiers "former" or "ex-" before them is more accurately descriptive, they aren't required, and there is nothing incorrect in using the title as it was. Nitpicking, I know, but you brought it up.

I have to take issue with this statement as well, in the section headed "Money Isn't Votes":

"We were donating to the use of the internet as a tool, in other words – in the same way that the voters heard “Anybody But Bush” when Howard Dean was mentioned, a lot of us heard “Contribute to the use of the internet for politics” when the collection plate came around. (Novelty campaign.)"

You're strictly speaking for yourself, as you admit, and others who may be technologists of your particular bent. You're undoubtedly correct as far as that goes, but it's a bit insulting to those of us who donated not because it was easy or because we thought we would like to promote a new method of political involvement. For me, those concerns were of a minor nature, if indeed they were ever a factor at all.

I donated for the first time to a candidate for office because I felt it was high time I got more involved, and I saw in Dean, after thorough inspection of his record and positions, a potential champion for popular reform emerging among the darkest days for our democracy that I've personally witnessed. I wasn't attracted merely to his anti-war message, for if that were my criterion Kucinich would have been my natural affinity along with his more radical liberal proposals. Dean arrived at a time when I felt I had finally reached a better understanding of the nature of American politics, and the historical difficulty of change therein. I'm a solidly liberal thinker, but I've come to realize that we liberals won't get the society we envision when we promise to go in and tear out the old one. Lasting change is gradual, and our two-party system where the "lurkers" are always the majority is specifically designed to allow fundamental change only after careful, lengthy deliberation.

Dean presented by far the most credible credentials as a person who already knew how to wrest improvement from the system without upsetting the whole apple cart, who had the basic candor to tell the people that if he won, it wouldn't be easy, but it was possible to get things done if they stayed involved.

That candor may have been one of the factors that the "lurkers" found off-putting in the end, but most would never admit to it in a poll. Ultimately, in that regard, the people may not get the government they want, but they always receive the blessings they deserve.


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56. tencentlife on February 10, 2004 1:35 PM writes...

"The voter only has one very limited bit of power — to cast judgment between the choices on offer. Dean was grossly overstating the degree to which voters could be empowered in a system of representative democracy."

Also, Clay, this may be arguable on it's face, as far as the overstatement by Dean, but to take it as a fundamental truth, that the voters have access to only a single point of leverage in a republic, betrays a lack of appreciation for how business is conducted by government.

Part of what is so sorry about our democratic system is the inane focus on the electoral events. Citizens are voters for a day now and then, but completely forget that they are constituents every day of the year. Some constituents spend a great deal of their time exercising their right to petition the government, or pay others to do so for them in the form of lobbyists.

There are many more common citizens than there are lobbyists, and any politician knows that the bulk of his campaign funding ultimately will come from citizen contributions. The instances are many when great numbers of citizens have gotten fired up enough about some issue to make their concerns heard loudly enough that government has responded. They don't always get what they're asking for, but they do get a hearing.

If that influence were exercised more consistently, if citizens kept it in their minds that that was an instrument that was always available to them, they would likely receive a very diffrent quality of representation than they have been getting. In that light, Dean wasn't really stretching at all.

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57. anon on February 10, 2004 4:55 PM writes...

No offense, but do you know what "antebellum" means? It means "before the war." "Antebellum South" means the South before the war, where the war is always the Civil War. It's not just a general epithet for the South.

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58. Clay Shirky on February 10, 2004 5:17 PM writes...

Yes, that's what I meant to say -- the part of the south that were states before the civil war. That part of the country is the only place where penetration is below 45%.

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59. chris on February 10, 2004 9:48 PM writes...

The irony here is that Howard Dean refused to drink the Kool-Aid. But his followers gulped it down with abandon.

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60. Jordan Frank on February 11, 2004 12:00 AM writes...

Fantastic writeup Clay. There should be more of you to go around. My astonishment at the Dean scenario:

1. As soon as Kerry won Iowa, the press seemed to cling to him, pronouncing him winner right then and there. Since then, they have given Kerry more praise and more air time than other candidates. Since then, they aired the wrong side of the Dean "I have a scream" speech, which was suitable to the audience but not suitable to an out of context close-up on him.

2. No one can point to the turn around for Kerry, but it seems to center around the day that the man he saved came out to help the campaign. I am all for a war hero, but what does this have to do with being a good politician and president?

3. Dean is the only candidate with a resume that shows a solid record of success on all the points we all really care about (jobs, economy, health care, education). Kerry can only point to bills he wrote that never passed. Edwards was a fantastic lawyer but never really was a politician.

4. Kerry, like Gore, was a senator and has a very plastic and pompous personal presentation. The attributes that lost the vote for Gore (well, almost) make Kerry vulnerable. Dean and Edwards are real people, they have and exude soul. Kerry has and exudes speech writer rederick.

Its great to see all this feedback on your blog!! Off for now.

Permalink to Comment

61. Ranjit on February 11, 2004 12:02 PM writes...

Mr. Shirky's way off here I think. You were half right the first time. A potential salient feature of the Dean campaign was the style of engagement. The problem is that he didn't choose to sell that part of the campaign to less attentive voters.

The problem with the Dean campaign is that instead of trying to sell himself as an anti-establishment candidate, he suddenly ran a huge ad campaign to present his credentials as a member of the establishment.

Here in California Schwarzenegger proved that you if you stay on an antiestablishment message when voters are pissed off they will vote for you even if you don't have a record. He said almost nothing about what he would do except that he wasn't a bigoted right wing Republican, and he would go into Sacramento and clean house. He had the right combination of free publicity and the right message.

Dean had a huge potential advantage if instead of selling his record he attacked his opponents fundraising styles and sold his own. If he switched from talking about Iraq, the deficit, etc, to campaigning about his campaign he would have done much better.

Meanwhile his opponents started attacking his record, and the media invented a liability (his temperament) to make the race more competitive. Dean's response was to stay on defense and continue to try to present himself as the "most electable."

Dean failed because he failed to frame the debate in a way that would distinguish him from the other candidates. By making his message electability he opened the door for other candidates who could credibly make the same case. Framing the debate in terms of electability makes establishment ties a positive rather than a negative. But no one else could have made the anti-establishment case as well as Dean, but he stupidly gave up what pushed him out in front in the first place. Not surprisingly the most establishment Democrat is now way out in front.

Dean continues to try to make the case for being an outsider, but very weakly by attacking his opponents' voting records. But his opponents have co-opted the issues that helped him establish an outsider status. Being against the war is no longer an outsider position.

The best response would have been to move on to where his opponents could not follow by selling the campaign itself and its fundraising practices, and attacking the fundraising practices of his opponents.

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62. Wendy Patterson on February 12, 2004 11:50 AM writes...

What is missing in all this discussion is some elaboration on the role of the big business media had on shaping the perception and discussion about Dean...rather, about Kerry.

Yes, more and more people are using the internet as opposed to reading the newspaper, but I do not assume that they are getting the news from the internet. I think that TV is the mind-numbing media that most American use to get the news. It's quick, predictable, and appeals to those with short attention spans.

Now, look at who owns TV, cable, radio, and satelite and look at whose campaigns they contributed to.

Read the following article from the UK Guardian, 2/10/04!

Media chiefs back Kerry campaign

Owen Gibson
Tuesday February 10, 2004
The Guardian

Fresh from his latest win in Maine, the favourite to challenge George Bush for the US presidency has secured the financial support of some of the most powerful media moguls in the world.

As John Kerry's campaign to secure the Democrat nomination - and with it a crack at the White House - continues to gather pace, it has emerged that it is being bankrolled by key executives from News Corporation, MTV-owner Viacom and Sony.

The victory in Maine, Mr Kerry's 10th out of the 12 primaries in the opening weeks of the Democrat selection campaign, confirmed his position as overwhelming favourite to take on President Bush in November's presidential election.

Unsurprisingly, the donation from News Corp's boardroom came not from chairman Rupert Murdoch, a committed Republican, but from the company's chief operating officer, Peter Chernin.

Mr Chernin, one of Mr Murdoch's most trusted lieutenants, is among several media chiefs who have pledged to raise between $50,000 and $100,000 to support the Vietnam war veteran's campaign for the White House.

Others who have pledged to raise more than $50,000 include the Viacom chief executive, Sumner Redstone, and Sony chairman Howard Stringer, whose name has recently been linked with the vacant chairmanships at ITV and the BBC.

Most of the money raised from these contributors will have to be raised through business associates, relatives and friends as individuals can only give a total of $4,000 each to presidential candidates - $2,000 during the primaries and another $2,000 during a general election.

US political commentators have speculated that Mr Kerry has enjoyed the support of the media community in an effort to head off the challenge of Howard Dean, who has fallen back in the race despite being the frontrunner before the primaries began. Mr Dean made statements last year about wanting to break up media conglomerates.

New figures compiled by the Federal Election Commission, correct up to the end of December 2003, show that Mr Chernin and the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti, both gave the maximum $2,000 to Mr Kerry's campaign.

Mr Redstone gave $1,000 to Mr Kerry, $3,000 to the re-election bid of the senate minority leader, Tom Daschle, and $5,000 to the Democratic senatorial campaign committee. Mel Karmazin, the chief operating officer at Viacom, also gave $4,000 to Mr Daschle.

Mr Murdoch, meanwhile, contributed $2,000 to the re-election as senator of Republican John McCain, who is chairman of the influential senate commerce committee, which regulates the media.

Contributors to president George W Bush's re-election campaign included the Time Warner chief executive, Richard Parsons, who handed over $2,000, and the Clear Channel chief executive, Lowry Mays.

Other noteworthy media executives who contributed to party funds include the cable mogul and Liberty Media chief executive, John Malone, who gave $2,000 to the Republican National Committee last year, and Disney's under-fire chief executive Michael Eisner, who gave $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

· To contact the MediaGuardian newsdesk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 7239 9857

· If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

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63. Jessica Leppanen on February 12, 2004 11:39 PM writes...

I am very interested in the analysis of Dean's campaign difficulties. I want to state that, despite the failings of the campaign, I respect Dean for the views he holds, and though the bubble of a technology driven campaign may burst, and though his campaign advisors obviously failed him, that should not detract from his message. We owe him gratitude for his energetic outcry against complacency. I'm going to vote my conscience in Wisconsin, and hope that others do the same.

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64. Sam Pratt on February 19, 2004 5:13 PM writes...

I've got a really *dumb* comment... How the heck do you trackback to this item? (I see plenty of other people have managed this, but I'm at a loss.)

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knowledge access as a public good
viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace
Gorman, redux: The Siren Song of the Internet
Mis-understanding Fred Wilson's 'Age and Entrepreneurship' argument
The Future Belongs to Those Who Take The Present For Granted: A return to Fred Wilson's "age question"