2.02.2004

POLITICS - Little Wonder

This GQ article about Joe Trippi, Dean's miraculous (ex) campaign manager, is incredible. It gives insight on what makes Trippi tick, but also on what went wrong with this campaign.

How could Dean have possibly wasted away most of his $40 million war chest?
Back when Dean was riding high, Trippi would sit in his office at five in the morning plotting new ways to "freak everybody out." Like running ads in Texas. Texas! The cojones. Or flying 500 evangelical Deaniacs from Texas to Iowa to knock on doors and say, "I'm from Texas! I know George Bush! He sucks!"—which, at the time, seemed like a brilliant idea.

I find this amusing because I live in Austin, Texas, and attended some local Dean functions. Now, I'm trying to imagine sending some of those people from Austin to convince Iowans to vote for Dean. A brilliant idea? Heh. Maybe for a fun sociological experiment, but not for a serious campaign. I doubt Kucinich even flies that high.

I always thought that many of the vocal Dean supporters spend too much time focused on the desires of the immediate Dean community, and in effect, they operate in a type of echo chamber where the platitudes of Dean never cease.
Trippi knew it wasn't enough to put up a Web site; you had to interact with them, empower them, listen to them. Which is why you would find him, at all hours of the night, instant-messaging perfect strangers out in DeanWorld.

Isn't that a little...weird?

"You don't get it," he replies. "It's them. These are the people who are doing it"—"it" being the Howard Dean phenomenon—"and I'm gonna pay attention to them."

"It" is the internet phenomenom, and it isn't exclusive to Dean. Trippi believes that all of the other candidates have a weblog because of Dean. I believe that weblogs are becoming much more popular, was one of the big buzzwords of 2003, and not exclusive to Dean or his community.

The internet is cool, hip, and flashy. It's fun to be part of a trendy community. However, that doesn't necessarily translate into national popularity. For example, look at the electronic music community. It had an established web presence since the mid 90's, had popularity among young Americans, and generated millions of dollars. It wasn't accepted by mainstream America, though.

The era of internet politics is beginning, but it isn't here yet. Dean may not end up as the new George McGovern, but as the new Barry Goldwater. Just like Goldwater introduced direct mail solicitation to the political process, Dean has introduced the internet. And both were considered a little too radical by their own parties to be elected as the national candidate.

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