Dean’s 2004 Campaign

This weeks readings centered on Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign and his innovative use of the Internet. Both the Shirky and Hindman articles make it a point to mention that Dean’s campaign isn’t a subject of interest because he failed, but because he was ever successful in the first place. His uses of the Internet for fundraising and mobilizations were unprecedented and thus pegged him as the main front-runner, both articles discuss what essential aspects went into launching him into this position only to, predictably, fall short in the election.

Shirky discusses the Dean campaign from an interesting standpoint, providing hypotheses to explain potential reasons why it failed. One of the explanations, he calls the mirage hypothesis, states that although Dean’s campaign looked like it had all the makings of a successful campaign, it was just that- an image of a successful campaign. He goes even further to say that the success most observed surrounding the campaign wasn’t real. This is even more interesting because with that hypothesis in mind Shirky does admit that the campaign was the best-funded and most covered by the media. This poses the unique idea that even in using the Internet more effectively than any other campaign there can be factors that overshadow this and still cause overall failure.

Hindman reinforces the idea that Dean’s failure was predictable even though the Internet was used so effectively and was a pillar of the campaign. He incorporates some alternate reasoning that Shirky omits; the political demographics of the Internet and the shift in the use of the web infrastructure. Taking those two into account he makes the point that liberals dominate online use, which creates a big ideological divide.  Hindman goes further to say that Dean’s campaign was successful in using this ideological divide and other aspects of the Internet, to turn digital interest into tangible political resources. This is obviously a good thing, but became a hindrance when he failed to convert this online, monetary, and original support into actual votes.

Through using Dean’s campaign both these articles show that even the most effective use of the internet can mobilize, organize and energize voters. But without the correct mechanisms in place converting this online support to actual votes is quite difficult and can likely fail, like in Howard Dean’s case. It’s interesting to think what changes could Dean have made to continue his online momentum into the voting booths? Was the online support an actual detriment to his campaign through creating an exaggeratingly successful image that actually wasn’t there?

 

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