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?