Thursday, November 6, 2003
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The revolution in campaign affairs
Noam Scheiber has a must-read in The New Republic on the state of the art in primary campaigning. It's ostensibly a profile of Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. It's really about how Trippi has exploited the Internet in revolutionary ways. The key part:
Decentralization leads to greater ownership, which in turn overcomes the collective action problems that plague all political campaigns.
Read the whole piece. The figures Scheiber throws around suggests that the polls in many states don't matter so much, because the raw number of Dean's supporters are astonishingly high relative to average primary turnouts [Anything about how this revolution in campaign affairs affects Dean's standing in the South?--ed. No, which offers a glimmer of hope to his opponents. But just a glimmer].
The thing is, as Scheiber notes, this revolution is confined to primaries, not general elections:
UPDATE: Jacob Levy has further thoughts.
Yes, but how many hippies wake up in time to vote? Or dont get so high they accidently vote for Sharpton? Maybe Dean can promote an initiative to hold primary voting at Phish shows.posted by: Mark Buehner on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
Recent evidence suggests that the traditional models haven't been doing so well for Democrats in general elections, either. So the preaching-to-the-choir Internet campaign isn't any worse news for Democrats than if Dean had never run, except as a backhand way of suggesting that other candidates would run stronger against Bush. With the possible exception of Clark, I doubt that. How many Republican-leaning voters do you think are planning to vote for one of the other Democrats based on their primary campaigns? Damn few. Dean is doing as well in this regard, or better. [Republicans who say, "If I were to vote against Bush, I'd vote for Edwards" arent gonna get us into the White House.]
I see Dean's use of the Internet as the successor to the right wing's use of flyers at church parking lots. I never had any objection to that as a method, although I certainly didn't like the candidates who were elected that way. A cadre of enthusiastic volunteers recruited in unorthodox ways can bring in a lot of money and votes beyond their own numbers.
I also think that Dean's Internet campaign is the only one going anywhere with young voters, a group where the Democrats have done poorly. Clark has a chance to duplicate this, and I hope he does, but he is just getting started. The almost complete absence of Kerry stickers in Berkeley is as good a sign as any his campaign is moribund.
One other point: I think we are going to see an unusually large number of defectors both ways in the 2004 election. I see many Democrats worried that the outflow because of Dean's perceived views on defense (I don't think gay civil unions are going anywhere as an issue) will outweigh the inflow from fiscal conservatives and "Fire the architects of the Iraq quagmire" Republicans. If Dean pulls ahead soon, it may be time for him to articulate much more specifically a homeland security and national defense plan that will reassure Democrats.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
I have already predicted that the Internet is paradoxically a benefit---and a curse to the Democrat Party. The Dean campaign is supported mostly by Internet savvy Leftists. These sort of folks are not likely to allow him to drift back to the political middle during the general election campaign. The odds are minimally 50-50 that were about to witness another Nixon vs. McGovern but kicking. The Democrats may very well be able to “credit” the Internet for this looming disaster.
The Democrats are currently in the awkward position of having to pray for an economic or terrorist disaster. Either that, or they must find a photo of George W. Bush having sex with a giraffe!posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
I'm not so sure that Dean's primary constituency will "not let him drift back to the political middle." First of all he's been doing a lot of drifting recently with considerable help from his opponents who have been quick to question his liberal credentials. Second, he has a record as governor that is quite moderate that he can emphasize in a general election. Finally, he wooed the left by opposing the Iraqi war. He can keep them in line by continuing to oppose it. They will turn out for him based on that. He can then drift to the center on all other issues.posted by: Stuart on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
Wes Clark stumbled when he turned away from his decentralized internet coordinated roots and went classic campaign scenario with Clintonite aides and managers. It choked the life out of his campaign.
On the other hand, Dean's movement really has earned the title of a grass-roots insurgency. Danny boy here has the right angle on this.
Too bad we can't get the damn notion that control ain't synonymous with success or progress in Iraq and as McCain suggested decentralize and get the Iraqis invested in the political development there. We keep on expecting them to support us while we hand a tailor-made or dictacted government, consitution, and economic (tax and commercial) structure to them.
As the much quoted Summers said, in the history of the world no one has gone out of their way to wash a rented car. Dean's philosophy shows the power of letting go control enough to let other people help you.posted by: Oldman on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
I'm with Dan and Stuart on this.
First, turnout is arguably far more important than appealing to "swing" voters. Given how low voter participation is there are probably enough folks who don't vote to make the efforts of those of us who do just so much pissing into the wind if you could actually get the to the polls (which Trippi seems to have a track record of doing).
Secondly Dean has appealed to the left mostly with his tone, not by nailing himself to given positions (except maybe Iraq), which allows him a fair bit of running room.
Oddly though, most polls have his support not being in the young lefty bracket as is usually stereotypes. He actually seems to pull more in the centrist, 30-49, and male brackets. From what I've seen at least.posted by: Nick on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
While Dean certainly has some moderate credentials, he's already been pigeonholed by the mainstream press as the rabid McGovernite anti-war liberal. Someone should do a Nexis search to see what percentage of news stories in the last six months that include "Howard Dean" also include "Birkenstocks" -- seems like at least 50%. Once the press settles on a story, they don't give it up without a fight.posted by: KenB on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
So what Joe Trippi has actually constructed for the Democratic Party is an internet-accelerated express ride to the wrong destination. A super-weapon they couldn't aim straight, and with which in 2003-4 they just blew their Presidential electoral prospects to bits.
This may indeed in the end be what he is remembered for.posted by: JK on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
JK, you're all talking shit.
:)posted by: ch2 on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
“So what Joe Trippi has actually constructed for the Democratic Party is an internet-accelerated express ride to the wrong destination”
That’s exactly what I think. Speaking of Mr. Trippi, this article on The New Republic’s website is most intriguing:
“He (Joe Trippi) reasoned that Dean's antiwar, anti-Bush message would resonate at the grassroots....”
Please note that Trippi deliberately targeted the whacked out anti-war flakes. This indeed increases Howard Dean’s chances to win the Democrat nomination. But what states will he carry with this theme in the general election? I concede that a campaign built around the idea that President Bush is not fighting the war in Iraq successfully might resonate with the middle of the road American voter. However, outright pacifism is a losing proposition. Dean’s hard core supporters are at best only slightly to the right of the Indymedia crowd.
The TNR profile is most valuable for that one insightful kernal of truth--that Dean supporters are already stalwarts, willing to put ever increasing sums into the kitty to support their "investment."
The problem with this political model is that it cannot be reconciled with Dean's supposed interest in a "big tent" (without which he WILL lose).
His core supporters come off as so rabid, that moderates and independents are turned off Dean in what I suspect is an irreversible movement.
The question then becomes not what Bush will have to be caught doing to lose HIS supporters, but what Dean will have to do to convince people like me (increasingly disaffected pro-defense Dems) to come over to his side. I want a strong president who will defeat the international forces of terror and fascism. Dean offers me nothing. He is beyond the pale. THAT is why he is currently doing such a bangup job of leading his party over a cliff.posted by: Kelli on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
Heck, there was no reason for me to provide a link to The New Republic article. The host has already done that. This publication, by the way, is famous (or infamous) for always supporting the Democrat Presidential candidate. The Editor-In-Chief Martin Peretz might tease everybody, but ultimately he would side with the Democrats. Peretz is even a close friend of Al Gore. In the next election, however, the odds are that he will have to go with President Bush.posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
The TNR profile is most valuable for that one insightful kernal of truth--that Dean supporters are already stalwarts, willing to put ever increasing sums into the kitty to support their "investment."Can someone explain more slowly why this does not also apply to the most enthusiastic contributors and supporters of George Bush? Oh, I forgot, they are by definition in the mainstream. Dean's large base of small contributors are fringe nuts.
(Can't you imagine Democrats saying some very similar things in 1979 about the Ford/Reagan primary? "Ford is a more electable moderate. It's too bad the other party is picking Reagan and his enthusiastic followers and going over the cliff.")posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
I found the article extremely interesting and I agree that the Internet machine is more useful for Dean in the primaries than in the general election because of the scalability concerns. Now,speaking as a moderate to liberal voter who believes that US security has not been improved by going into Iraq but now that we are there, our security would be further weakened by withdrawing from the county, the meme that Dean is too liberal and he'll lose support from the liberals as soon as he races to the center is bunk. As a group his early liberal supporters, including a good chunk of the anti-war group, knew he was/is far closer to DLC than any other group within the party. The biggest thing that attracted people to him is that he has a willingness to call bullshit on Bush which quite a few people in the party believed that the rest of the Democrats were too scared to do. We know he is going to the center, look at his comments on the confederate flag (not something you mention if you pander to liberals), gun control, and his statements that we have to stay in Iraq for a while. All of these are rather centrist or at least non-liberal positions, yet he is still gaining in polls and solidifying his hold on the liberal wing of the party by style more than substance.
Now onto the general election, the Internet campaign will be useful in generating money, generating volunteers and generating good word of mouth, but I do not think that it will be solely decisive, but it is a useful tool to get people self-organized and motivated.posted by: fester on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
“Can someone explain more slowly why this does not also apply to the most enthusiastic contributors and supporters of George Bush? Oh, I forgot, they are by definition in the mainstream. Dean's large base of small contributors are fringe nuts. “
President Bush’s supporters are far more in the mainstream. I personally disagree with him regarding hallucinating drugs and my theological views are somewhat unitarian-universalist. The “I’ll Take My Stand” conservatives are definitely not my cup of tea. I also believe that the National Rifle Association is an extremist group. Last but not least, I’ve often taken the President to task for being politically correct.
Howard Dean’s fire breathing supporters are indeed fruit cakes. There is no doubt in my whatsoever of their tending toward the Indymedia mindset. They possess a pacifist streak a mile wide. What’s more important, they’d feel more comfortable if our nation was militarily impotent! France is supposedly the beacon of reason and prudence. The United States should kiss the rear ends of these Old Europeans. Are you still not convinced? O.K., let me put this way. The overwhelming polling data prove that the majority of Americans essentially agree with me. The New Hampshire governor ‘s true believers probably cannot earn 45% (and I’m being generous) of the national vote. End of story.posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
“...including a good chunk of the anti-war group, knew he (Howard Dean) was/is far closer to DLC than any other group within the party. “
Gee whiz, how will Governor Dean hide these people during the general election? Are they suppose to remain silent until after November 2004? How will the more conservative New Democrats feel about these folks?
That’s one of the central differences between Bush and Dean. The Republicans have already pushed the Pat Buchanans out of the party. The real right wing crazies have gone elsewhere. The same cannot be said for the ideological extremist core still residing within the Democrat Party. After all, Al Sharpton is even one of their candidates!posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
How slow do you want it?
Seriously, though, the comparison between Dean's contributors and Bush's doesn't wash, largely because the latter is in office already and the former is still months away from the primaries. Bush's supporters, large and small, can safely load him up with cash since he already has a 50/50 chance at keeping his office (better if the people in this thread are to be believed) whereas Dean has a perhaps 1 in 3 chance at walking off with the nomination, then a slightly less than even shot at the whole enchilada. Putting your hard-earned money on Dean is a much less certain bet.
Frankly, I am not crazy about either guy's big supporters. Both are therefore tarnished by association. But Bush and co. are a known quantity, while Dean and co. are not. I don't have a lot in common ideologically with the Christian Right or Ken Lay's ilk, but I have even less in common with the naive pacifist socialists who have made Dean their candidate of choice.
So, are we on the same page now? Bush hasn't drawn new supporters into his camp so much as Dean has pushed the center (inadvertantly, it seems) rightward. I'm not moving, I'm being moved along. Moo.posted by: Kelli on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
Many thanks for a wonderfully informative article. I had a politician father, grew up with pols constantly underfoot, and managed my first campaign at age 18. This article told me a lot.
Letting activists turn themselves into self-organizing stakeholders/stockholders will definitely revolutionize national politics other than during general elections, and influence them a lot during general elections. The internet makes it possible. The old style control-freak campaign managers won't be able to cope with this save in general elections.
I now agree that Dean has it made in the shade for the nomination.
This will be great fun to watch.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
First off, I think that this thread is painting dean supporters as much more out there than they really are.
second, I think this thread is forgetting just how split straight down the middle this country really is. The last election was about as tight as it could possibly be and since then, I think that Bush's numbers have been artificially inflated. I think more and more people are starting to wonder whether he's made us less safe rather than more -- so I think that artifical bump may not last. He's got a lot of shit to call -- and I think calling it may be the democrats best strategy.
First off, the real fringe of both parties has always resided elsewhere. but for that matter most americans of all stripes have always resided somewhere "else" then either the Republican or Democratic parties.
But if fact -- the Democrats have quite succesfully pushed out their "fringe." Millions of people voted for Nader even when that course seemed ill-advised. The real question is whether the Democrats have welcomed the fringe back. Nader+Gore's #'s could have handily beat Buchannen+Bush's #'s. Others may not agree, but I actually think most people who voted in the last election will still vote much the same way. It seemed for a while that "everything changed" but it's become increasingly clear that "everything could have changed" if either the Republicans or Democrats hadn't fallen fall short of the imagination required. Some important specifics details have changed, but the fundamentals have not, I think.
And Al Sharpton is a symbol not a candidate -- he also represents the Civil Rights wing of the party which can hardly be described as "fringe" and should more acurately be described as "core."posted by: Ben on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
"And Al Sharpton is a symbol not a candidate -- he also represents the Civil Rights wing of the party which can hardly be described as "fringe" and should more acurately be described as "core.""
posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
“The last election was about as tight as it could possibly be...”
Al Gore was perceived by many as a New Democrat candidate not hostile to the business community. This will not be the case regarding Howard Dean. Gore was easier to market to the middle of the road voter.
“I think more and more people are starting to wonder whether he's (George W. Bush) made us less safe rather than more...”
Oh, and how is that? Me thinks that you are the type of individual who will almost always find a reason not to use our military might. You will hem and haw and say that America was right employ force to defeat the Nazis. But what about our present day circumstances? Did you even support the invasion of Afghanistan? Out of curiosity, do you consider Israel to be the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East?posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
The Democrats have pushed out their fringe? Well I suppose so if pushing out enough voters to cost you the 2000 election is something to celebrate. Thats not the answer though. The key is to bring them in the tent, take their money, and shut them up. Difficult, but effective. Bush has managed to do that with the religious right (mostly). You just wont see a million Bush voters breaking off to vote for Buchanon with the war on. Abortion and whatnot are huge issues for the hard right, but allowing Howard Dean to surrender to Bin Ladin is not something the extreme right will allow under any circumstance. So Bush's right flank is secure because Dean scares the bejeezus out of the right. I dont think Dean is so secure, if he drifts back to the middle he could have a coup on his hands. I'm wouldnt rely on the extreme left being rational enough to take half a loaf of anything at this point. I think theyve lost their minds.posted by: Mark Buehner on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
You make some good points but I disagree with your last one about Dean needing to pander to his left flank. They've already said they're willing to cut him some slack to pick up votes from the less enlightened majority (note how little flack Deano is getting from his loyalists over the "confederate flag" remarks--the other candidates aren't getting any traction from it).
The question is where the middle third of the electorate will go if the race comes down to Bush v. Dean. What is uppermost in their minds? Deanies trust most will say "anyone but Bush" while Bushies trust that Dean's weakness on defense will push the middies into W's camp. My money would be on Rove in this strategerical contest but a year is a long time.posted by: Kelli on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
allowing Howard Dean to surrender to Bin Ladin is not something the extreme right will allow under any circumstance.Mark, no wonder your posts sound so hostile. Let me reassure you, the liberals (actually, you probably would describe me as a far-leftist although that isn't how I describe myself) won't let him surrender either. It won't happen.
[Aside to David: I supported the invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, so did my father, and he had been a conscientious objector. I do know people who didn't, and I felt their objection to violence bordered on literal masochism. I don't think they amount to more than 5% tops of the Democrats and probably more like 2.]posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
As a Dean supporter, and someone who has frequented the all important meet-ups, I can assure you Dean's followers are not fringe lefties, but a combination of all sorts of folks, including, sit down and hold onto your hats, REPUBLICANS! Yes, that is right, we Dean supporters are not blind leftist bats, but well informed, THINKING individuals who are well aware of Dean's centrist views and are not fooled into believing that he is soft on defense. He is not a peace-nic. He has stated from day 1 that he supported the invasion of Afghanistan and warned his supporters that his view on Iraq did not mean he was going to lead any peace marches any day soon. For those of us who do lean to the left of Dean, we are willing to compromise. We are not supporting him because his policies strictly reflect our values. We are supporting him because he is willing to be honest and NOT pander to us or anyone else for that matter.
Please do your homework before you make such ridiculous and blatantly uninformed statements as I have read here.posted by: Karen Griffin on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
Republicans for Dean. Hmmm. I believe that was the chant over at Karl Rove's house not too long ago.
Karen, your homework assignment is to read Uncle Remus' Brer Rabbit tales. "Don't throw me in the briar patch Brer Fox..."posted by: Kelli on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
"Aside to David: I supported the invasion of Afghanistan."
If that's the case, you should want George W. Bush to be reelected. An Al Gore administration would likely still be hesitating to get the job completed. He would have moaned about the lack of cooperation of our Old European allies. The Democrat Hamlet would have found one excuse after another to stall. Howard Dean is the same type of man. These are the only ones who survive the selection process of the Democrats.posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
Is it really unfair to remind today's Democrats of George McGovern?:
“By last week, that figure had reversed itself. In a late October Washington Post/ABC News poll, 54 percent of Democrats said the "U.S. should withdraw forces from Iraq to avoid casualties," while only 40 percent wanted to keep them there.”
“The leading Democratic presidential contenders, who like most candidates hate tough choices, are trying to pretend they don't have to make one. But the longer they oppose the Bush reconstruction strategy, the more they will find themselves pushed toward the alternative, which is no reconstruction at all. On Iraq, (Dennis) Kucinich now represents the Democratic vanguard. Unless the other candidates face reality, he could soon represent the Democratic mainstream. ”posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
David T, on what possible evidence are you basing the idea Al Gore wouldn't have invaded Afghanistan? (For which, BTW, our allies were eager to join us. You've gotten so used to their refusing to help us in the diversionary farrago, you have forgotten.)
If I said that Wendell Willkie would have surrendered to the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, would you take me seriously?posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
"Howard Dean’s fire breathing supporters are indeed fruit cakes. There is no doubt in my whatsoever of their tending toward the Indymedia mindset. They possess a pacifist streak a mile wide. What’s more important, they’d feel more comfortable if our nation was militarily impotent! [...] The New Hampshire governor ‘s true believers probably cannot earn 45% (and I’m being generous) of the national vote."
The fact that you don't even know which state Howard Dean was governor of belies your ignorance and explains your extreme misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of his supporters.
--independent, fmr Republican, red-state resident, Dean supporterposted by: J from VJ on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
OK, reality time, guys.
I'm a Dean supporter, a swing voter like you wouldn't believe, and a Southerner to boot. Until I joined the Dean campaign, I thought I was pretty liberal--now I think I'm moderately liberal.
Joan Walsh wrote a dead-on Salon article about Dean's liberal supporters and their attitude toward his position on the liberal-to-moderate spectrum. One important point she made was that the majority of Dean's liberal supporters understand quite well that he is not anything like the liberal that the press and others have tried to make him out to be. And that they have no problem with that. But not only that...we also understand that the fact that he is not a flaming liberal is the KEY to his success. We all grin big when anyone talks about how liberal Dean and his supporters are. What a surprise people have coming. We can hardly wait to see their faces when it hits them...he's not a flaming liberal! And his flaming liberal supporters DON'T CARE! In fact, they LOVE IT!
As for the internet thing, please...you think we are all sitting at home at our computers? Maybe you guys are spending too much time at yours. Open your eyes--the majority of the Dean grassroots activities these days are happening OUT THERE. We are hitting the streets. We spreading out, reaching out, finding all those non-internet voters, talking to them, bring them Dean's not-so-flamingly-liberal message. We are are reaching voters in New Hampshire and Iowa the old-fashioned way--by writing THOUSANDS of personal letters (not scripted by the campaign--all straight from the heart) to individual voters. People even write back. All kinds. Liberal, moderate, not so moderate. Young and old. They hear us. You don't.
I'm personally working a small, mostly black, rural county in the South, where virtually no one has internet access. The Dean campaign didn't tell me to do this. I just picked a county off the map, got in my car, drove down there, started knocking on doors, met local leaders, got them on board, and now we're ready to start tabling in front of the grocery stores all over the county. Before I'm done, I swear, I'm going to get virtually every last eligible voter in that county registered, virtually every last one of them to vote, and I'm going to get an overwhelming majority of them to vote for DEAN. You just watch me!
And how do you think Trippi is going to use all that money we've donated via the internet? To run print and TV ads to reach the non-internet folks. He sure ain't gonna use it to buy more pixels. Geez.
You know what was remarkable about Walsh's article? She wrote it after actually attending a Dean Meetup. It was noted that most of the other folks waxing sagely about the many reasons that the Dean campaign was (back then) never going to get off the ground and (a little later) never going to over take over the front three..two..one and (now) never going to win the general election have never left their offices...all the pundits just jabber to each other, spinning the same, tired, out-of-touch messages around and around and around.
Go to a couple of Meetups. Listen to those flaming liberal supporters. Come away stunned.posted by: Free Spirit on 11.06.03 at 05:29 PM [permalink]
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