Dean’s Internet Strategy

In Hindman’s The Real Lessons of Howard Dean, the author looks to explore the ways in which former presidential candidate Howard Dean was able to create such a successful campaign in 2004. Hindman is quick to highlight the fact that Dean’s campaign was innovative due to the fact that it provided a space through it’s website for supporters and other liberals to become involved in the campaign. Dean’s campaign website allowed a more open structure that wasn’t extremely concerned with managing and generating their own information or messages, and put more of the control over content generation and message construction into the hands of supporters. This evidence, which helps explain the success of the Dean campaign, mirrors aspects of several of the theories that have been discussed throughout this course. One major aspect is the fact that Dean’s campaign provided a space for users to become more personally involved in the campaign. Hindman points out that previous campaign sites featured limited interactivity and were tightly controlled. Dean’s campaign website fostered a community for supporters to create “meet-ups” and promoted small credit card donations. Like the hacker culture discussed in the early Turner reading, Dean’s supporters were highly invested, wanted to hold “meet-up” events, and wanted to share information with other supporters. The Dean campaign provided an opportunity, like the early computer movement, where any individual felt like they could directly contribute to the movement’s success. Hindman helps explain the campaign’s strategy through this statement, “The geographic reach of the campaign, the size of its volunteer corps, and its ability to recruit previously inactive citizens were all a result of Dean’s Internet strategy. In addition, Dean’s Internet Strategy was rooted in ideas promoted by Shirky like group formation, activism, and user-generated content. Was Dean’s success on the Internet a fluke? Do we see any of the tactics featured in Dean’s Internet strategy in the current campaigns?

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2 Responses to Dean’s Internet Strategy

  1. macjulie says:

    While it is important to note the success of Dean’s campaign due to the interactivity of it, Hindman is also critical of this type of campaigning. He mentions that Dean was unable to form hard position stances due to his use of the internet and how it allowed voters to help shape his message. Additionally, Hindman is critical of the way he went about fundraising (which essentially allowed a lot of people to feel involved). The author make the argument that small donations allow for a soft campaign platform because the candidate cannot be sure of what voters expect of him. While involving voters is an extremely important tactic, it is important to note that the author was also very critical of these moves by Dean.

  2. nverduin says:

    I believe some of Dean’s tactics were well done. He completely changed the finance of campaigns by paying attention to the power of the 80%. He was able to raise more money than other candidates by asking a large base of supporters to contribute small amounts, while other candidates only focused on a small amount of big contributors because they didn’t have the outreach Dean had. He made use of the Internet and was innovative in the way he interacted with supporters. It was a new tool that wasn’t completely understood and Dean was able to reach a large amount of people and gain awareness. However, during the campaign, Dean definitely gave too much control to his supporters and therefore lost his voice and his stance on policies was lost with it. Therefore, no one really knew what he stood for and rather made him up to be someone they wanted. The tactics were relatively sound, but they lacked a message to send out and therefore their strategy was off.

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