Week 8

Clay Shirky analyzes and discusses how Howard Dean’s “successful” campaign was not actually successful at all.  He explains that even though he used a multi-faceted campaign, raised a significant amount of money, and got a lot of attention, his “success” was merely a facade, or a “mirage” or a “soap bubble”, as Shirky calls it.  The support for Dean may have been real, but it was “thin and vulnerable”. Shirky talks about Dean’s campaign as being a “novelty campaign” even though “the Dean staff put the Internet to the best, most vivid, and most imaginative use it has every gotten in any national campaign”.  He explains that in the future, we will have to worry that a candidate, who is trying to use in the internet in innovative ways, will be warned about doing so.

Matthew Hindman also discusses what can be learned from the first digital campaign. Like Shirky, Hindman explains that Dean gathered an outstanding amount of funds, good endorsements, and had seemingly wide spread support leading up the primaries. He also notes how the Internet played a key role in Dean’s campaign. He explains that while conservatives and liberals are online in fairly equal amounts, liberals visit political websites more.  Hindman suggests that this is one of the things that could have contributed to Dean’s apparent support.

Given what we’ve read and know about the failure of Dean’s digital campaign, how do you think the election would have been different if all the candidates campaigned digitally?

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3 Responses to Week 8

  1. Nick E. says:

    I don’t think that the outcome of the election would have been very different, but the election coverage would likely have been different. The issue with Dean’s candidacy was not his campaign, but with his electability. If more candidates would have had effective online campaigns, Dean probably would not have been the frontrunner for the candidacy, as his online presence was what made him stand out the most. However, I don’t think that Dean’s funding would have been very different if other sites existed, as he capitalized on small donations ($10). In the past it didn’t make sense to go after such small donations, but Dean’s Internet campaign allowed him to capitalize on the long-tail (similar to the record industry today). In general, if other campaigns were more digitized, Dean probably would have received less coverage and there would have been less anticipation for his campaign, but Kerry would still have likely emerged as the victor.

  2. tommyotoole says:

    I also agree with Nick that the election would have probably had similar results for Dean. I actually believe that if all of the candidates campaigned digitally, there would have been earlier signs of failure for the Dean campaign. First of all, if every politician was online, Dean’s unique campaign strategy wouldn’t have provided him a boost, and his actual politics would be highlighted (which as we discusses, were not his forte amongst liberals and most democrats). Also, if every candidate had a digital campaign, I would predict that Kerry and Edwards would have had a larger online presence as well. The Dean campaign overestimated their actual support, but if Kerry and Edwards had a larger online presence that Dean, the campaign managers could have potentially realized that their online numbers did not necessarily translate to an enormous following throughout the nation on the ground. Overall, Kerry would have most likely still won, in my opinion.

  3. bridgethi says:

    I agree with the above comments that the election outcome would not have been different. Had the other candidates taken their campaigns to the Internet, I think that they would have aided their own campaigns and further diminished Dean’s. Part of the reason Dean’s campaign failed was because he didn’t have much recognition: he was only well known to some, and others had no knowledge of who he was. Kerry, on the other hand, had far more recognition, and also far more money than Dean. Had Kerry or other candidates taken their campaign online, Dean would have had no special edge over the others and his campaign would not have been unique. The reason Dean’s campaign garnered as much attention as it did was because it used the Internet as its main tool, and with an even playing field his chances of winning would only be minimized.

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