How Do We Measure Success of Dean’s Campaign?

Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004 was a completely novel and used open source campaigning to help promote awareness and fundraising. Unfortunately, this did not translate to votes in the primaries. Trippi explains how the campaigns use of blogs and online outreach allowed for “The Great American Conversation” about the direction of our country, and that the Internet was “reversing the trend of corporate and political packaged communication”. Dean could communicate with people “in an authentic voice”. Despite how revolutionary this was, and how much attention and support it received, Dean did not get the votes he needed.

Shirky gives his thoughts on how Dean’s campaign lost the perceived lead. He calls the success of Dean’s campaign a “mirage” or “soap bubble” because the campaigns organization helped “sustain the bubble of belief” that Dean was influencing voter decisions. In reality, Dean’s campaign was not pushing Dean as a candidate, but rather acting as a support group for the American people and restoring their faith that their influence makes a difference. Shirky argues they were creating a “movement instead of a campaign”. The use of the Internet lowers the cost of collective action and gathering together, so therefore the turn out of supporters should be taken with a grain of salt. The large crowds at his rallies and speeches do not translate to the number of voters.  This is the same idea that we discussed earlier that emails to representatives do not represent the amount of voters that letters do.  When it came to decision time, voters didn’t show up or really believe in Dean. Shirky explains, “more people use the internet than vote in general elections, much less primaries”. They believed in the idea that their voices and votes mattered, not in Dean’s policies.

By reviewing Trippi, we understand that Dean’s campaign was completely innovative and that no one had accomplished this much over the Internet prior to him. However, Shirky lays out some obvious flaws in the approach. Do you think there is a way that an open source campaign could work? Could a campaign be entirely over the Internet if they promote the right message? Finally, how do we measure the success when we change the rules of campaigns?

Aside | This entry was posted in Fall 2012, Week 8, Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How Do We Measure Success of Dean’s Campaign?

  1. danicawhitfield says:

    To begin, I think that you made a great point in mentioning “In reality, Dean’s campaign was not pushing Dean as a candidate, but rather acting as a support group for the American people…”. The evidence you used to preface this statement really supports the fact and drives home the idea of why the campaign failed as it did. However, I think that the end of that statement “…and restoring their faith that their influence makes a difference” could be looked into more. What I personally took away from the articles was that his campaign gave his supporters a great way to communicate and influence themselves (or rather, the other supports of Dean). I say this mainly because of the influence of and the campaign’s blog post discussions. Obviously as you stated, Dean’s great failure was not reaching out to (and ultimately persuading) new supporters which is why I think that, while his Internet influence was remarkable, his supporters didn’t really succeed in making a difference outside of their own “bubble” of Dean supporters.

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