Week Eight

According to many political commentators, the 2004 Dean campaign is one of the most epic collapses by a political condiadate in the history of American presidential candidates.  This is quite the charge, as there have been elections every 4 years for almost 250 years.  While Dean did indeed collapse, he still had an great impact on American politics.  In the past decade or so, the Internet has streamlined logistics in the business world, and according the Hindman, Dean was the first to streamline a Presidential election.  Two of the most important aspects of a political campaign are money and volunteers, and Dean had them both as a result of his online campaign.  So where did he go wrong?

Hindman contends that one of the most important aspects of a political campaign is momentum.  Dean did not have momentum, but instead he had the illusion of momentum.  It was not the way his campaign was run campaign, or even his Iowa squeal that lost Howard Dean the election…It was Howard Dean that lost Howard Dean the election.  He was simply not electable.  While on paper he was in the best position to win, primary voters obviously felt he was not the right candidate.

Shirky delves not into how the Dean campaign collapsed, but instead how the public had come to perceive such a large lead.  He contends that Dean emerged as an early frontrunner because he was the “Anybody but Bush Candidate.”  Before  Democrats really began to consider candidate platforms, they expressed support for Dean simply because he was not George W. Bush.  Members of the Dean campaign assumed that this support remained up until the primaries, but alas, it did not.

While past campaigns were greatly influenced by the Internet, the Dean campaign appears to be the first to be truly streamlined by the Internet.  But the effectiveness of the Internet as a platform for deliberative democracy still remains in question according to Hindman and Shirky.  Hindman states that Liberals (compared to Conservatives) clearly dominate the audience for online politics.  How then can the Internet serve as an effective tool fostering democracy if not everyone is participating?    The simple answer is it cannot.  The Internet is used in different ways by different people, so by the Internet by itself cannot be used to determine the beliefs of society as a whole.  This is clearly exhibited by the Dean campaign, as according to the Internet, Howard Dean was all but assured to be Bush’s challenger for the Presidency, but this Internet provided a false sense of support for the candidate.

Taking into account that the Internet is used in different ways for different people (i.e. Liberals vs. Conservatives; Primary voters vs. party activists), how effective to you feel the Internet is for fostering a deliberative democracy?

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2 Responses to Week Eight

  1. kbyrd23 says:

    Because each user of the medium can utilize the Internet in their own way for their own motivations, I do not think that the Internet is a very effective way to foster a deliberative democracy. I agree with Morozov that for the most part, people will choose entertainment over political information on the Internet. I submit this based on my own experience and the experiences of my peers. Most of my friends are not actively involved in politics. They may have an opinion on political issues or support a candidate, but they are not vehement party supporters who post statuses all day long about a candidate or the opposition. My friends and I partake in political action when it directly affects us, like the Stop SOPA protest. I think that as long as people have the freedom to live their lives the way they want to without threat from the government, then they are more or less satisfied and do not care as much about political happenings.

    I think the best way to foster a deliberative democracy is political education in school. Students need to learn more than how the U.S. government works and what each branch does. Students should be taught about domestic and foreign policy issues and how they translate into nonpolitical life. For example, I think kids should learn about foreign affairs to better understand why the U.S. is involved in so many places overseas. I think kids should also learn about the negative and sometimes dirty practices of bi-partisan politics including how super PACs work. I believe that most Americans, including myself, are not sufficiently educated to make informed political decisions. I believe a deeper understanding of democracy, capitalism, and two party politics is necessary for a more deliberative democracy.

  2. kbking1 says:

    This post makes some good points about the readings and the illusion of Dean’s success. “The internet is used in different ways by different people” basically answers the question of whether or not the internet fosters a deliberative political environment by pointing out that the web is a tool/medium that doesn’t embody any one quality. The internet probably functions the most democratically in democratic nations and the least democratically in authoritarian nations because of the nature/tendencies of the users in those areas as well as the relative restrictions placed on use. So the web is probably pretty conducive to maintaining a deliberative public sphere in America because we expect it to function in that way, and we see it partly as a platform for us to voice the wide range of opinions we are generally encouraged to have. In that way, the internet might be more likely to heighten political reality than to reshape it. This idea helps explain the Dean campaign; while the internet certainly helped generate a lot of buzz, he ultimately lacked electability. No amount of internet campaigning could have changed that. In the end I think it’s important to look at the internet as just another medium. It doesn’t have agency or an agenda, so trying to generalize about the ways in which the web’s implementation affects politics is just as daunting a task as trying to say how newspapers or television affect democracy. In each case–with the internet, TV, and newspapers–there’s never going to be any one answer.

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