Howard Dean and Innovation

In his article “The Real Lessons of Howard Dean: Reflection on the First Digital Campaign”, Matthew Hindman describes the trials, successes, and tribulations of Howard Dean’s attempt at digitizing his 2004 presidential campaign.  Hindman argues that the Dean campaign “highlights the importance of the liberal-conservative gap in political Web usage…”, but also believes that it does not do enough to portray why or how online politics are viewed as a viable tool (Hindman 123).  While describing Dean’s apparent use of slacktivism to garner support, Hindman also argues that this method is a successful one in “engag[ing] and motivat[ing] those most likely to become core supporters”, as opposed to individuals who might already support Dean (Hindman 124).  Although Dean’s campaign met with an unfortunate end, Hindman states that it yet “marks the end of the beginning of the study of the Internet in political science” (Hindman 127).  His arguments might be supported by Druckman and might be considered a rebuttal to Jamieson’s reading.  

As we learned last week, Druckman’s findings show that “candidates must…have political motivations for going beyond the ‘electronic brochure’ standard” (Druckman 40).  Druckman explains that while each new technological innovation displays extensive benefits, their drawbacks must also be understood.  I believe that Druckman would applaud Dean’s campaign methods.  Dean made a conscious effort to implement a new technological feature, which, perhaps, was not as successful as it could have been, had more people understood the technologies.  Dean aimed to use more two-way communications, which Druckman argues is a better, more successful means of getting through to a people than one-way communication.  And as the challenger to the presidential incumbent, George W. Bush, Druckman would argue that Dean made a worthwhile expense in developing his digital campaigning market.    

Additionally, although Jamieson might not completely agree, the fact that Dean attempted an innovative form of campaigning should be recognized.  As we’ve discussed in class, Standage and Jamieson might argue that the Internet and new media are not fundamentally changing the environment and cannot stand out when compared to what we’ve seen and experienced historically.  However, I think it would be fair to argue that Howard Dean and his campaign embarked on changing the way political campaigns are run and has, so far, sparked a revolution.  Television did definitely change politics in the mid-1900s, as citizens were given a more personable view of the candidates.  The Internet has provided a further revolution, however, because it allows for a broadcast form of communication, versus a one-to-one form.  Citizens are more involved in the way campaigns are run and this can be argued to have been sparked by Howard Dean.

Would you agree that Howard Dean changed political campaigning for the better?

How can we see this today?

Many would argue that Obama has taken and run with this digital form of campaigning.  Would you agree?  If so, has it been for the better?

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4 Responses to Howard Dean and Innovation

  1. robausti says:

    Yes, I agree that Obama has been very successful with this digital form of campaigning. He has taken digital campaigning to a new level by being the first presidential candidate to effectively use social media as a major campaign strategy. For example, Obama logged nearly 20 times as many re-tweets as Romney in 2012. Furthermore, the Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms. Effective social media campaigning is based on the psychology of social behaviors. To do this, the Obama campaign collected and analyzed data on a large scale, which allowed his team to model behaviors to coordinate target communications. Obama’s digital campaign did an effective job at targeting certain demographic groups. In all, with his social media base and spreadable information, Obama had a superior reach in both elections-that resulted in high voter turnout-which in turn cemented his presidential victory.

  2. toriwhit731 says:

    I would agree that Howard Dean changed political campaigning, yes. “For the better” is dependent upon the power you think digital campaigning has. But, the Obama campaign is a great example of Dean’s “political campaigning revolution” for the better, or more accurately for the win. Obama’s use of the digital sphere parallels what Karpf has called the tactics and strategy, as we have discussed in class. He not only used social media effectively (tactically), but his use reflected a pointed strategy, as Robbie has pointed out.

    The Obama campaign did what the Dean campaign failed to do, and that is turn a social movement created from the Internet into votes. For Dean, the documentary clip said it best, it was no longer about Dean as a candidate and more about taking back the White House. For Obama, it could be said that his first presidential run was just as much about “Hope” as it was about the presidential nominee. The difference was that the Obama campaign created Obama as a symbol for the movement and for “Hope”, not separate from the movement. This speaks to the saliency of the digital campaign and the power it had in creating voter turnout.

  3. John D'Adamo says:

    I agree with Tori and Robbie that Pres. Obama was able to accomplish in his campaigns something very special- taking Howard Dean’s approach of campaigning via a movement, but making the movement centered around the candidate rather than an idea alone. The issue with Dean’s candidacy was that the enthusiasm surrounding the campaign expanded beyond the candidate himself, which caused a severe lack of turnout come the days of the primaries/caucuses. Dean’s efforts did create the fundraising backbone that Plouffe and the campaign cleverly implemented using social media (“MyBO”), and the Obama campaign was able to execute the idea of small donors providing a large portion of the funds for the presidential campaign even better than Dean.

  4. jnzucker says:

    Obama picked up the pieces of where Dean’s campaign fell apart. Unlike President Obama, Howard Dean’s internet campaign was revolutionary at the time, but truly failed to transcend into the real-world. Obama was able to do both: have a successful online campaign using his website, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter as well as a successful campaign in the real world sphere. Not only were Howard Dean and his campaign team over-confident, they failed to acknowledge the true important that the internet success does not mean true voter outcome. I think Howard Dean paved the way for other political candidates to further push the boundaries of Political Campaigning via the Internet. Other people were able to succeed in this spectrum because he failed.

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