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?