Dean Campaign: Should candidates stick to traditional campaign styles?

In Here Comes Everybody, Shirky theorizes about how “[w]e now have communications that are flexible enough to match our social capabilities, and we are witnessing the rise of new ways of coordinating action that take advantage of that change”  (20).  He asserts that innovative social tools provide easy ways of creating new groups that “lead to new groups, lots of new groups, and not just more groups, but more kinds of groups” (20).  These theories are related to his discussion about the consequences of organizing Howard Dean’s open-source presidential campaign on the Internet. Although Shirky theorizes about the Internet’s fascinating ability to assemble groups and individuals to coordinate group effort, his study “Exiting Deanspace” analyzes how the campaign strategies of Howard Dean’s campaign contributed to his eventual loss of the presidential election.  Shirky speculates how a collective delusion of his position as fore-runner during the campaign was mediated by a range of factors including: the Dean using the Internet for a novelty campaign promoting politics, coordination costs of social tools, a conversational Internet culture creating a movement instead of a campaign, overselling campaign effects, and depending on money for votes.

Joe Trippi’s article “Open Source Campaign: Hockey Sticks, Troll Bats, and the Sleepless Summer Tour” explains how the June 2003 Dean for America campaign fundraising crafted this collective delusion.  By fabricating a perception of people making a difference and becoming part of a “Great American Conversation” about serious issues on the Internet, Trippi conveys how Howard Dean’s open-sourced campaign persuaded Americans to become involved and believe that they were making a difference.  The Dean campaign spurred individual and group engagement with websites, events, groups, and organizations ranging from student groups on high school and college campuses to Mormons and even kids collaborating.  The campaign encouraged community service with groups of Dean supporters collecting food for homeless people and cleaning up river banks. (148). If you were experiencing the Dean’s presidential campaign, would you be drawn to this campaign and inspired to become more involved after seeing the rise of diverse groups?

Additionally, Trippi explains how the campaign’s official website “Blog for America” created an authentic communication style with real people and distinct voices.  The style of the blog was transparent because it allowed for bloggers’ feedback and criticism. Tripp exemplifies how a Dean Team of supporters detracted from critical blog posts by debating or donating in troll’s names to pose them as sponsors instead of disruptive Internet bloggers. Even more so, the campaign became a movement with a sleepless summer tour of the campaign staff visiting ten cities in four days to raise one million dollars and showcase its strength.  Do you think that a presidential campaign should resemble a rock concert or publicity event with mobs of supporters chanting ? Would you be more inclined to support and vote for a presidential candidate who employs a traditional campaign style instead of creating a thrilling and inspirational movement of supporters?

Jami Levin

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1 Response to Dean Campaign: Should candidates stick to traditional campaign styles?

  1. nverduin says:

    Most of Dean’s presidential campaign was about generating noise and supporters although his stance on political issues wasn’t clear. I think he effectively used the Internet to generate recognition. His tactics including interactive blogs, and allowing supporters to take the reins proved to be successful for gaining awareness, but not for gaining votes. He created a movement that sensationalize the idea of citizens ‘taking back America’ and having their voices heard. Dean, himself, did not have a politically relevant message. I think we do need to get people excited about politics, but there should be a message underlying the excitement. There needs to be a direction and clarity of what the campaign is fighting for or else understanding of the supporters is lost.

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