Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Saturday, December 20, 2003
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Hopefully BushCo Won't Crack The Code

Frank Rich at the NYTimes gets it:

I am not a partisan of Dr. Dean or any other Democratic candidate. I don't know what will happen on Election Day 2004. But I do know this: the rise of Howard Dean is not your typical political Cinderella story. The constant comparisons made between him and George McGovern and Barry Goldwater — each of whom rode a wave of anger within his party to his doomed nomination — are facile...

The elusive piece of this phenomenon is cultural: the Internet. Rather than compare Dr. Dean to McGovern or Goldwater, it may make more sense to recall Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. It was not until F.D.R.'s fireside chats on radio in 1933 that a medium in mass use for years became a political force. J.F.K. did the same for television, not only by vanquishing the camera-challenged Richard Nixon during the 1960 debates but by replacing the Eisenhower White House's prerecorded TV news conferences (which could be cleaned up with editing) with live broadcasts. Until Kennedy proved otherwise, most of Washington's wise men thought, as The New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in 1961, that a spontaneous televised press conference was "the goofiest idea since the Hula Hoop."
[J]ust as anything can happen in politics, anything can happen on the Internet. The music industry thought tough talk, hard-knuckle litigation and lobbying Congress could stop the forces unleashed by Shawn Fanning, the teenager behind Napster. Today the record business is in meltdown, and more Americans use file-sharing software than voted for Mr. Bush in the last presidential election. The luckiest thing that could happen to the Dean campaign is that its opponents remain oblivious to recent digital history and keep focusing on analog analogies to McGovern and Goldwater instead.

(via corrente)

There's more to Dean than the Internet, of course, but the way his campaign has used the medium is nothing short of extraordinary. Or rather, it is extraordinary how the medium and the grassroots have enveloped his campaign, and Howie has been centered enough to allow that to happen instead of trying to lock down this phenomenon. As we Deanies like to say: Dean is the messenger. We are the message.

When you think about Seti@Home and all the other examples of distributed computing using the Internet, the Dean movement is nothing more than another application of the same idea: you slice off a bit of power from the central processing system (the campaign), empower the distributed processors (the people), and let them take a big job (getting Dean elected) and do small parts of it (convincing other voters) in parallel.

The title of Rich's article is "Napster Runs for President in '04". That's a great headline because the Dean campaign is also very much a peer-to-peer application. Just look at the letter writing activities at MeetUps that happen all over the country: regular people getting together across the nation to explain to people in Iowa why they like Dean. People are making connections with other people, engaging each other through an interactive combination of new and age-old technologies. It's the public square writ large.

Can this defeat Bush's $200,000,000? I believed it in July, and I'm even more convinced now. This is not a campaign, it is a growing movement that can be a powerful force for positive change in this country. As more people become aware that there are real alternatives to BushCo's destructive policies and politics, the more support this movement builds.

Anything can still happen between now and November 2004, and there's a real uphill climb for whoever the Democratic nominee is. But remember, anything can happen when people join forces. And anything can happen when you have a network as vast as Dean's.


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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

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Dean is still the messenger.
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