Trippi, in Chapter 8 of his book The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything, deemed the Dean campaign “The Great American Conversation” because of the dynamic online discussion about the direction of our country it was sparking. To have the first primarily online campaign strategy was a risk, and one that was worth taking – if not for the actual campaign, then for the progression of online civic discussion in general. The “blogosphere” was all abuzz with discussions reflecting the enthusiasm of the Dean campaign, but what was apparently lacking was actual, concrete support for the man himself. The best way to describe this campaign, in my opinion, was summed up in a sentence in Shirky’s article, Exiting Deanspace, which was: “people were supporting a movement rather than a campaign.”
How did this happen and how can campaign strategists prevent it from happening again? Supporting the general Democratic movement is what this campaign was essentially doing, and it was doing it well. But the atmosphere of coming together via a new medium, while thrilling, was overshadowing the objective of the campaign: to get Dean elected. Many “supporters” didn’t really know anything about him in particular, and while they supported the movement and all it was doing to awaken people to become more involved in politics, that was about it.
I think this is a really interesting example of how the Internet almost did what the leaders set out to do. While a new mindset towards politics and an appreciation for the Dean campaign’s new, forward-thinking strategy are both positive, they don’t necessarily translate into votes. Encouraging people to be active online and in their communities is a great first step, but Dean himself needed to be more active in his campaign if people were going to believe in him, rather than the idea of a country run by someone like him.