Howard Dean and Winning the Race

In Existing Deanspace, Shirky gives his readers insight into his perspective on the use of Internet in the Howard Dean Presidential campaign and how its brief success ultimately “dissolved on contact with reality,” (1). Shirky highlights a number of reasons for the over-estimated the success of the campaign. First, by making gathering and supporting a campaign easier than ever through the use of Internet, Dean also generated a false sense of support; rather than looking at number of supporters, they should have been looking at what the supporters were actually doing. Secondly, using the Internet was so revolutionary that people supported him solely because he was using the Internet as a campaign tool – thus creating a movement not a campaign. Lastly, the amount of money raised does not directly result in votes – Dean made it so easy for people to contribute that contributions did not really say anything about who was voting. In The Open Source Campaign, Trippi explains the first hand perspective of the Dean campaign and contradicts Shirky by arguing how his use of Internet was so successful (but only for a short period of time).

Based on the Karpf reading, the combination of these articles proves that the campaign was tactically successful but did not prove to be strategically successful. Tactical measurement looks at how many people have done something in relation to the campaign. Tactically, Howard Dean proved to be very successful – raising millions of dollars, acquiring thousands of followers, generating media buzz, etc. Yet, the campaign did not achieve its goal and was ultimately unsuccessful at getting Dean through the Presidential race – thus it failed when looking at strategic metrics.

In his discussion Trippi states, “Howard Dean was doing something more important than running for president; he was creating a political movement in which people mattered again. That was the real story,” (149). Does this statement prove the point that Clay Shirky was trying to make in Existing Deanspace? No one is arguing that Dean was not successful at using the Internet to fundraise, attract the media and generate excitement – in this tactical sense he was indeed successful. Yet the end goal was not to push people to civically engage or create a political movement; he was trying to run for President. Do you think it is possible to try and generate a movement to ultimately better society while still running an effective campaign? Or do politicians need to focus solely the greater goal – winning the race?

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