Ben Halperin Week 8

These two accounts, especially in conjunction with each other, are a fascinating cautionary tale of the Dean campaign. Trippi’s “The Open Source Campaign” describes the campaign’s efforts with blogs and other online resources, especially for attaining contribution goals. The article describes how the Dean campaign was the first to utilize sites like MeetUp and GetLocal to organize supporters. Shirky’s chapter demonstrated how fragile and gilded support for the campaign was, despite the bountiful fundraising and apparent popularity of the candidacy. The use of online tools by the Dean campaign demonstrates the potential usefulness in the future, but would have to be fine-tuned in order to gain actual voters.

One completely beneficial advantage of using the Internet has been ease of donations. This idea rang especially true with the Dean campaign strategy. With electronic donations, a higher number of people can give money very easily and quickly. The campaign was able to efficiently utilize electronic donations by going for small donations by more supporters, in contrast to the Bush campaign, where they would go after the ultra-wealthy, with $2,000 a plate dinners (Tribbi). Another instance of the Internet’s great value on the campaign trail is with organization. With the Internet, organization was faster, cheaper, and easier. Organizing fund-raising and publicity efforts are made much easier. Then, the main part of the electronic campaign, The Blog For America, allowed for supporters to hear the “truth” regarding media reports about Howard Dean, give donations, and rally support. Overall, the Dean supporters took very well to the movement of the campaign online, and demonstrated its potential. However, as Shirky demonstrates, these efforts were momentous and gained notoriety, but failed to bring upon results, for one reason or another. Support for Howard Dean manifested itself in many ways. Many supporters underwent a lot of effort, and Dean’s popularity for Dean was noticeable. However, such events are not necessarily getting new voters. As Shirky states, “If you can’t point to ways your work is getting votes, you’re not helping” (Shirky). So while these events and Internet resources were flashy and pervasive, they were publicizing Dean to those that have already decided to vote for him. Therefore, the donation numbers and MeetUp statistics all appeared superficially impressive, but were not actually making much change.

Another important factor of Dean’s demise was geography’s importance in voting. Dean’s tactics catered more toward those in big cities, such as Los Angeles and New York. Despite the efforts in those cities, they were not influencing voters in Iowa or New Hampshire. Widespread efforts with the blog and other Internet resources are better suited for the national election or later in the primary process. As it turned out, Dean went through his money and still did not work to attract new voters in important states like Iowa or New Hampshire. The ways that the Internet was able to facilitate organization and donations demonstrate that the Internet (blogs or social wesbites in particular) as a tool for campaigns is extremely valuable. How can their efforts be narrowed for specific parts of the country instead of spreading too wide? However, how can those efforts be used to add new voters?

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1 Response to Ben Halperin Week 8

  1. copatton says:

    Ben brings up an interesting point about the lack of strategical success of the Dean campaign. While this campaign did have tremendous tactical success in getting more people involved through the website, this involvement did not lead to votes for Howard Dean. The internet provides great opportunities for involvement through donations, organization, and interactivity. However, the most important goal is to translate this to getting more votes. Ben used the example of Dean’s campaign securing lots of small donations while Bush targeted the wealthy people. It appears as if these small donations don’t translate to voter turnout as much as Bush’s strategy did. The key focus for internet campaigns going forward will be how well they can strategically succeed in bringing voters to the polls.

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