Dean Candidacy & Internet Politics

The Internet truly played a role in Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.  Matthew Hindman and Clay Shirky discuss the usage of websites, social media and Internet Politics to conclude that while Dean was at means for election, the Internet subsided him.  Dean believed that through the Internet, he could win.  Although, while Internet politics has many advantages, Hindman and Shirky found that Dean’s failure to win was predictable because of the issue surrounding his electability even though his online campaigns made him an early primary.   

Hindman discusses how Dean’s campaign marks an ongoing shift in the way candidates use the Internet, with liberals visiting websites much more than conservatives and moderates.  He created an interactive campaign website that encouraged his voters and supporters to generate their own content, create their own Dean websites, and fundraise.  According to Hindman, the rich and educated use the Internet more than those with less money and education, with women lagging behind men, and Hispanics/ African Americans behind whites and Asians.  It would be thought that this medium is disproportionately in the hands of advantaged groups, but it is not the case.  Really, liberals dominate the audience for politics on the Internet.  While Dean won numerous key endorsements and had strong plurality in the polls, his presence on the Web was still not enough to make him a key player in the election.  His experience is thought to be a larger trend in online activism that actually only benefits liberal views.      

Shirky reinforces Hindman’s thoughts.  He believes that Dean was the best-funded and best-publicized bid to the Democratic nominee yet he was never truly successful.  He raised money, got press, and excited people and potential voters to aver to campaign workers and pollsters that would vote for him when the time came, in which they did not (Shirky, 2).  His success was not real.  The support he had throughout the election did not translate into votes.  Regardless of the Meet Up in New York City and the high attendance surrounding his presence, these attendees only expressed their support—not go out of their way to vote for him.  This “bubble of belief” (Shirky, 10) convinced him and others that he had a great chance at winning.  Both Shirky and Hindman contended that Dean’s followers did not truly financially back him.  His campaign was more of a social movement, instead of a real political campaign. 

With in being 2013 and social media usage at an all time high, how would you counter slacktivism and actually make your followers go out and vote for you?  Their comments and presence on your social media sites would not be enough.  How could you actually physically get them to go out and vote? 

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About remysarhan

University of Michigan '13 College of Literature, Science & the Arts Communications Concentration President, Chaldean American Student Association 248.798.5666 | rsarhan@umich.edu
This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dean Candidacy & Internet Politics

  1. Lizzy says:

    I think it’s really really difficult to get people to actually go out and campaign for a candidate. Dean’s campaign proved that a strong online presence and a few successful meetups aren’t enough to ensure a victory in a state because the people that are doing these things are already the top tier of supporters and they don’t need much more further encouragement to vote for a candidate. I think a better model would be what Obama seemed to do over the past two elections, which is to maintain a strong online presence and keep those active supporters but yet also continue to push very hard on the ground with campaign volunteers, fundraising dinners for the wealthy, and public appearances. In the last election I think both Obama and Romney did a good job during the last election of keeping up with supporters on the ground through personal appearances. It seemed like they were everywhere. Additionally, candidates nowadays have to try to be more transparent (or at least appear to be more transparent) then their opponents and they have to keep the scandals or public speaking gaffes to a minimum. As dumb as it sounds, the real key to winning over voters is to be the candidate that makes the least mistakes.

  2. macariav says:

    I completely agree with your insights on the challenges of getting people to actually vote and take an interest rather than just posting online. I think the key to obtaining new voters and gaining action is going to be in properly targeting specific groups. In looking at voters we can separate them into simple subgroups based on their current beliefs and participation. One is not going to be able to get someone to vote for the democratic candidate no matter how great their social media campaign if the voter is already committed and set on voting republican. You have to go after those voters that are unsure of their current vote. You have to show them the benefits of your side and remind them of the importance. Make them feel like their vote, specifically their vote is what you want, what you need, and what everyone needs in order to move forward in the right direction. You have to make it easy for them to become active. Informing someone that they can attend a rally that is an hour away is not going to be easy for them, show them they can make a difference in their community. It’s a challenge but it is doable.

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