MoveOn’ Wes Boyd at the Digital Democracy Teach-In

  • ❑ There was a hollowing out of the democratic process caused by the emphasis on broadcast culture
  • ❑ In broadcast, it is all about narrative. This creates the fight story, and that has created a situation where we fend off attacks all the time. The attack-and-defend model produces the cynicism we feel today.
  • ❑ Hitler ad — Chair of the RNC attacked us. A friend said to him "Isn't that bullshit?" and he said, "Yeah, but that's the game." Soon, no one cares [about living together] anymore.
  • ❑ Growth in the first four days: 334 members after one day – 1506 members after two days- 9332 after three and- 23276 on day four, about 100,000 by end of first week. These were people we could reach for free. They were looking to be heard, to make a difference.
  • ❑ 2000 — raised $2.3 million for MoveOn PAC
  • ❑ In business, we would have seen instant replication, because it is free. There wasn't instant replication, and that was when we started to build staff and ask people what they were interested in us doing. Campaign finance reform, dismissed by the mainstream, was right at the top among people who we talked with, environment, too.
  • ❑ After 9/11, international issues came to the fore
  • ❑ People were very concerned about what was happening in the world, but also about how America would engage in that. People were very disturbed about an apparent rush to war and wanted to do something about it.
  • ❑ 48 hrs — raised $400K for NYT ad, when they asked for $35,000. So, they did a TV add, too; and billboards.
  • ❑ All these people came together around an issue — would they care about other issues? A million dollars came in about the tax cuts.
  • ❑ We had no idea that people were steamed about media consolidation. It's too wonky for most Americans. We heard about people passing messages around the net about FCC media ownership rules. We ran a petition and got hundreds of thousands of signatures in days.
  • ❑ Virtual march (all about logistics)
  • ❑ Global Vigil for Peace — March 16, 2003 – 4,000 locations in almost all countries. Photos and comments from all events. Integration of a global response and a way to visualize it through the web.
  • ❑ When I talk to leaders about what we are doing it is hard to get them to understand. They talk about message, we talk about service. We came to this not because we had nothing to say, but because we thought there were a lot of smart people who weren't being heard. We had to be leaders, but we had to develop ways of listening. Listening is effective. If you win, you listen.
  • ❑ Strong vision, big ears.
  • ❑ Send email to selves every week. Number of users and most important discussions in the forums. We tend to come at this like a business, asking how to provide service to our members.
  • ❑ Part of the hollowing out that came through broadcast, when the game became "Raise money for broadcast," people were seen as a risk. The more people involved in a campaign, the more chances someone could say something stupid. You have to trust that people will do good work. Somebody may say something that will bring on the attacks, but you have to deal with that. But you have to show people why it is worthwhile to get involved despite the attack-and-defend.
  • ❑ Political capital — someone used the phrase and damaged politics permanently.
  • ❑ Inflection points, where people cared about what MoveOn was doing as a service to people.
  • ❑ Is there an emerging public mind that is potentially way smarter than "we" are today.
  • ❑ What do we need to do to bring about a happy ending?
  • ❑ Instead of going to political consultants to get ads, we went to our members who, because of new technology, could produce ads, sometimes for pennies. WHat we got really bowled us over. One of the problems progressive leaders have is that they are perceived by the public as self-serious and humorless.
  • ❑ We are continually surprised by the issues that come to the fore. We asked people to interview one another by telephone and send notes to us. Freedom came up even though pollsters said it wasn't important.
  • ❑ Q: What's the relationship with George Soros?
  • ❑ Boyd: We were going about our business and a mutual friend set up a meeting that I thgouth was going to be a meet and greet. And at the meeting he said he really liked what we did. so we had him do the donation so we could do matching.
  • ❑ Q: why don't you have a blog. When are you going to fix that?
  • ❑ Boyd: After 2004. There is an issue about having content on the site having to do with the attack politics. Opposition research finds this useful for conducting attacks.
  • ❑ Q: Ultimately, your site agenda is set by you. What about accountability and how do I send a message to your people?
  • ❑ Boyd: I don't know if this medium is going to be driven toward monopoly or driven toward diversity. There might be many MoveOns. The question will become what is the democratic process of these organizations themselves. I guess we will deconstruct a bit and that will be a good thing.
  • ❑ Q: Who owns the forum content? Who owns the list and will you rent it?
  • ❑ Boyd: The core part of that is ownership and use of the list. We will never sell or rent the list. In terms of copyright on stuff that appears on the forum, we haven't really thought about that. I'm sorry, maybe we should.
  • ❑ Q: How about funding documentaries?
  • ❑ Boyd: We have, but they have a longer lead time.
  • ❑ Q: Could you say something about California recall, which suggests you didn't have perfect pitch? The MoveOn primary — why not another? Are you thinking what to do about presidential debates this fall?
  • ❑ Boyd: Recall — we did get a lot of feedback from members. We knew it was going to be very difficult. With 20/20 hindsight the whole thing makes sense. We justify that on our campaign called "Defending democracy." You have an opposition that is using every tool and gaming the California recall system. On the primary, we haven't done another primary since we had the impact we wanted to. The field would have been winnowed down solely on money. We announced we were having a primary and all the candidates said "what, what, what, a primary?" and they engaged. I think it was a good process.
  • ❑ Q: I was heartened by the importance of listening and creating a broad platform that will attract people. Can you speak to specific plans about how to set up building a broader consensus in this country?
  • ❑ Boyd: I think that is everything we do, what we are trying to do. We haven't figured out all the processes that will make that happen. There is lots of room for people to work in this sector–there is a vacuum.
  • ❑ Tim O'Reilly: How can you get people with different perspectives talking. How do you get the dialogue across that divide?
  • ❑ Boyd: I think you pull people in not through extreme partisan rhetoric and that use yourself and people will see what they have in common [paraphrased heavily]
  • ❑ Tim: Politics doesn't seem to be the middle.
  • ❑ Boyd: I wish people would do some empirical work to see what's really going on. We're not feeling this classic pull to the middle. This is a very centrist country. We all care about the issues that bring us together. So, how do you deal in a political world where attack and defend dominates and you also want to do democracy.
  • ❑ Q: How can we help you?
  • ❑ Boyd: There are two threads in the tools that underlie emergent democracy. We use our own open source platform, because we don't want to be stuck in some canned package. But to make it possible for other organizations to do it is an important thing. I'm (also) very concerned that we take political speech on the internet for granted, that it is totally commercial-by law there is no public space. Commercial entities don't like controversy because it alienates part of their audience. People are going to complain because you are going to say things people don't agree with. ANd they will subscribe to find what they don't agree with.

Joe Trippi speaks at Digital Democracy Teach-In

Here are my notes on former Dean campaign manager, Joe Trippi:

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  • ❑ Joe Trippi at ETech
  • ❑ The one thing that is amazing to me is how the press, who frankly could never figure out what the Dean campaign was now feel qualified to judge whether the Dean campaign was a success.
  • ❑ I fervently believe that we are at a pivotal point in history. Broadcast politics has failed us miserably. Debate isn't happening anywhere in the country except on the Internet.
  • ❑ The Dean campaign was about bringing real change to the American people. ANd that means fixing a system that was broke, that is rotted and corrupted.
  • ❑ Nixon-Kennedy debate changed everything. No one would have predicted it would become a race for money to buy a one-way media that shut the American people out of the process. And that is what all of us in the Dean campaign ran smack into. To believe that you could overthrow that system in a 13-month cycle… we had the ability to…there is only one tool, one platform that allows the American people to take their government back, and that is the Internet. It is going to happen because millions of Americans decide to act together in concert.
  • ❑ 33 lobbyists for every member of Congress.
  • ❑ This was not a dot-com crash. The Howard Dean campaign was a dot-com miracle.
  • ❑ seven people, 432 known supporters nationwide. last January. It is a miracle that Howard Dean moved from there to $45 M raised. Compared to Clinton, who was the previous record holder. I didn't do it, you did it. ….Americans who understood that this wasn't about one guy, that no one is going to change America for you, that you have to do it yourself.
  • ❑ There were so many things that went right. We tried everything. Where did MeetUp.com come from? I read Jerome Armstrong's blog — he thought I was an idiot. The first instance of Meetup.com came from a blog — that was a time when we were a couple hundred people around the country. Today, more than 200,000 people meet for Howard Dean each month. This was the Internet getting people to do something offline. The tools online help people fulfill aspirations offline.
  • ❑ You're talking to people on such a credible level
  • ❑ MoveOn is a real pioneer of the movement. They were basically best practices (to learn from). They didn't want to help one candidate, they wanted to share their best practices. They were instrumental with their advice (to the Dean campaign).
  • ❑ The political press has no way to write about this. The Internet community in many ways doesn't understand the hard cold realities of American politics.
  • ❑ Scream ran 933 times nationwide. It wasn't news, it was entertainment. It was the heat-seeking missle hitting its targetting. That was damaging, not what the governor did. ABC apologized. CNN admitted they ran it too many times. But they are also saying the campaign didn't work.
  • ❑ The anti-war statement made other candidates say he was out of his mind. It made the other guys in the race say "man, I gotta do that." It made people see that people had to take the president on when he was wrong.
  • ❑ Suddenly there was a debate whether there were WMD or not (I think the debate was going before Dean.)
  • ❑ He's talking the populist line — it's time we own the White House
  • ❑ Now knocking Kerry about money
  • ❑ Then we hear the "they stole the good lines" from Dean complaint. It wasn't just Howard Dean, it was about hundreds of thousands of Americans making a real difference.
  • ❑ Record turnouts is due to an engergized democratic party. Who did that? Howard Dean.
  • ❑ Other campaigns "pure ripoffs" of Dean tech strategy.
  • ❑ I think our democracy is threatened in ways the American people just don't understand yet.
  • ❑ The Republican party earns more money in contributions of all levels.
  • ❑ Except the Demcrats at $1 million+
  • ❑ Dean turned that on its head
  • ❑ It is about the money. That is, unfortunately, what it is all about.
  • ❑ We have revolution 1.0 in the 1700s, we're the beta stage today.
  • ❑ The day isn't that far off when.. it only takes a couple million Americans to…change the entire thing
  • ❑ I believe it can happen in this cycle
  • ❑ the energy and the tools are all in place.
  • ❑ the Internet wasn't mature enough befreo
  • ❑ Meetup, Friendster, etc.
  • ❑ You needed that many more americans to use Amazon and Ebay to be comfortable with making a contribution on the Net
  • ❑ It took a party that was morbid about how it raised money
  • ❑ to get the other campaigns to decide to use the Net to raise money
  • ❑ What you need to understand about the political system. You guys don't understand.
  • ❑ Jimmy Carter, after him. the party pulled this thing together, the Hunt Commission, to make sure Carter never happened again. never bowed to the hierarchy on the way to White House
  • ❑ The primary calendar is designed to make sure this works against insurgents
  • ❑ This system was designed for an establishment front runner like Kerry.
  • ❑ (What about if Dean had won?)
  • ❑ Only hope to become so strong and so formidable as an insurgent to knock out the establishment candidate in Iowa. We did a pretty damn good job of it
  • ❑ We got to a place where according to the party rules it was impossible to get to. to be ahead in the polls and with more money than anyone. It was all done with people, hundreds of thousands of them all using the tools built over the internet. Then we ran straight into broadcast politics. Al Gore endorsed us and what happened was alarm bells went off in every newsroom and every other campaign in the country. That alarm said "Kill now, Kill Howard Dean this second." In the press corps, the alarm bell said "This guy is about to be the nominee of the party and we have to hammer this guy. That's our job." The media thinks that is there responsibility. The Gephardt campaign committed suicide. It was the dot-com miracle being shot down. ANd now there is a need to say "it failed." What is so scary about the American people actually getting involved in their democracy?
  • ❑ It's the broadcast politics of this country.
  • ❑ Did the governor give them ammo on occasion? yes he did. But god help us if the mistakes of Joe Trippi or Howard Dean stop people from making a difference.
  • ❑ We are, you are, the Internet is, the most powerful tool ever put in the hands of the ordinary American. $25 with hundreds of thousadns of Americans working together turns the system on its head
  • ❑ We are powerful. that is why we are at just first the stages of it if we continue to fight, if we continue to develop the tools
  • ❑ Blog generating ideas: red bat. "Go get a red bat." Real-time, the bat tossed to the governor as he hit the top step of the podium. The blog people knew that they had suggested it and seen it 45 minutes later.
  • ❑ It was the governor saying "I know you told me to do this." This was the first campaign really owned by the American people and we have to build a movement owned by the American people. We didn't know what we were doing half the time. Did it all work? A surprising amount of it did.
  • ❑ The one frustration I had, given what we were trying to do, we didn't have the luxury–what all of us were up against-we didn't have the luxury of being in different camps. We didn't have the luxury to say "some of us go off and work for Dennis Kucinich and I think Edwards a good guy and I am going to blog for it. We need a unity movement. We have the power to give the American people their power back.
  • ❑ No knight on a white horse is going to ride into Washington and change this country by itself. There is only one force, the American people, and the Internet is the platform for them to come together and take their country back.
  • ❑ Standing ovation.
  • ❑ Ed Cone: What got people to the polls?
  • ❑ Trippi: We still need to work on tools that let people working online work together offline. Deanlink — top person was a 14-year-old in Alaska. the second was a 47 year old retired union worker
  • ❑ Dying guy decided to buy a $500 PC and became a leader in his community.
  • ❑ It's easy to build the list of 600,000 people who will take email and casual usage
  • ❑ we still need tools for on-the-ground campaign
  • ❑ the other problem is the transparency — competition downloaded names and wrote their own letters
  • ❑ What would have prevented Karl Rove having 15 people sign up, go to Iowa, get our training and put on the orange hat, then rob a bank.
  • ❑ Cone: Use ecommerce as an analogy. How important to mesh with enabling technologies and systems of people?
  • ❑ Trippi: slates of electors/delegates. we thought meetup people should be a component of those lists, but the county chair says "I should be the delegate" A lot of the arguing between the campaign and the grassroots was about stuff like that
  • ❑ Hopefully this movement is the thing that stays and coexists with broadcast media
  • ❑ Cone: Your pay and the finances of the campaign. The Itnernet is supposed to make things cost effective.
  • ❑ Trippi: A misunderstanding of what we were. The Kerry campaign will put on a million-dollar dinner. You spend $350K on a ballroom and food and entertainment. You make $1million but you spent $350K. In the Dean campaign, we did remarkably bold and crazy stuff. We bought $100K of TV in Austin — to get sign ups and to get media coverage and to put up a bat with a call for the donations. "Why did you waste money in Austin?" What our people want is to see someone take on George Bush in his home turf. The $100K is a fund-raising cost of raising a million dollars.
  • ❑ I don't know what is more offensive, that the implication that I am a thief or that I am a really bad theif. I made $165,000 on the Dean campaign in 2003. That's a lot. but why they are doing this: how do you stop this movement dead? You make them think its Trippi-get-rich scheme. It's the worst, meanest thing I've seen all year. First of all, I didn't have the spending control. Spent about $7.2 million on TV. Steve McMann, my partner, had been doing Howard Dean's media for 12 years — he would have, even if I hadn't been involved. I would have gotten my third if I hadn't been campaign manager.
  • ❑ I managed the campaign for nothing. This is not about getting me, this is about stopping this from going on.
  • ❑ Most of the $7.2 million is at an Iowa TV Station.
  • ❑ normally a 15 percent commission. we didn't take that. I didn't know until the other day that it was seven percent. this is about assigning the blame is about trying to knock down the movement.
  • ❑ Cone: How well was the campaign able to incorporate ideas from the grass-roots?
  • ❑ Trippi: One of our biggest problems was being on top of things. So many ideas coming across the transom. It's hard to be sure you are seeing all of this. Idea from blog about governor eating a turkey sandwich while Cheney at million-dollar meal.
  • ❑ Lessig blog: Weinberger: authentic moment because Dean's comments so mundane
  • ❑ Cone: State and local races. How applicable is what you have done to a senate or local race?
  • ❑ Trippi: Look at Meetup. Now you see congressional and senate races
  • ❑ How do we get a movement of people going that are involved nationally on this grander thing but also active at the local level. The interesting question is what would have happened if a grassroots campaign had run congressional candidates, too? Had we had two or three years of planning I am not sure I would have done that.
  • ❑ We're four to eight years away from this slide making it impossible to turn this around
  • ❑ Audience: I agree with the dot-com analogy is wrong. I personally experienced the virtual and real–I came to know Dean, then met him and saw a different person. How did that affect expectations?
  • ❑ Trippi: that's what is going on with Kerry now. People only know he's won. If they don't know what the guy thinks, they think he agrees with them. I don't think that happend in Iowa, as people saw him (Dean) in person. 11 days a month. Almost every Iowan who votes meets the candidates. That takes into account the difference between Net and personal knowledge. What happened in Iowa was a dynamic change in the way people were thinking after the Gore endorsement and the other candidates were out to kill him, and there was no way to get around that reality. The campaign and candidate made some missteps that gave them ammo. I did it — we spent about $1 mm on TV during the sleepless summer campaign. I thought Wes Clark wasn't going to get in — see what we could raise by raising the agenda. I miscalculated, Clark got in. A million of the $7.2 MM spent on TV. Yielded only $1.2 million in additional donations.
  • ❑ Cone: What happened after November, specifically online.
  • ❑ We couldn't figure out how do manage all these people. Our internet supporters were complacent-we've got more money and we're ahead. We had so many people who had not taken their family to dinner. Suddenly, he's ahead, and people said, "Hey, we're going to dinner." The stakes were higher than ever. but we couldn't communicate that. I didn't ring the alarm bells in the right way.
  • ❑ Cone: So, you had the most formidable campaing machine and you couldn't communicate?
  • ❑ No, but now the press was reading our blog. The headlines say "Howard Dean says he is in more trouble than ever." I'm not saying we didn't make it because of that. But how do you have honest communication with your support base when everyone is watching. We stopped saying ads were coming to keep Kerry from knowing ads were going up. But people took that as being more closed. How do you maintain that openness and free spirit? In June, who cares? But now, the Kerry campaign is desperate to know when you are going out with ads. There is some growing up and education that needs to happen.
  • ❑ Glenn Tenney: You've been using the national net to incite some global people. When do you expect it will be a local constituency?
  • ❑ Trippi: Not sure the net is mature enough to do that. Urban centers don't have enough acces. Iowa, for instance, the Internet community is almost nonexistent. We had to bring in a national base to go into the community to make the message known. If you have 60K contributors and 100K volunteers in Calif., it will not win you Calif. Sooner or later, at this stage, you have to get into broadcast politics.
  • ❑ Dan Gillmor: So, what can be done on the Net to overcome the screwed up press?
  • ❑ Trippi: Lott showed it can be important. We were the hottest thing on the Internet from January to June, but the press didn't give a damn until the money came in. the only they could write about was the money. "It's the money, stupid." That's why they say Trippi got rich off this, to stop the money.
  • ❑ That's what we have to understand. If in one day, 200,000 people gave a hundred bucks it would change this country.
  • ❑ For 12 months, the question was change vs. status quo and the campaign was dominated by Dean. Then Gore endorses, and the media says "If you vote for Howard Dean in Iowa, he's the nominee. Are you ready to do that?" This happened to Bill Clinton in Colorado with Jerry Brown. Carter with Jerry Brown. This all moved up, without a single vote being cast.
  • ❑ Today, we're voting for momentum. In Wisconsin, the voters will face the same question, again, but about Kerry. Does Kerry ask Dean for DFA?
  • ❑ You haven't seen the last of me.
  • I keep having a dream

    I’m writing a lot these days. A lot. But I’m having trouble writing my share of the democracy book I’m doing with Jon Lebkowsky. It’s not that I can’t write but that with the Dean campaign having collapsed I am trying to be analytical without being hurtful, and the truth is going to hurt a lot of people. Yes, yes, I know the Dean campaign is still raising money, but that’s the last sighs of the politics of hope at work, and I don’t believe hope is a useful in politics.

    Hope makes you sacrifice what you should do today to reap dreams delivered by others tomorrow. As Albert Camus said, “Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” The future is in our hands now, there is no tomorrow other than the one we bring with us into the future.

    Anyway, I’ve been having this dream for two nights. I am at a convention that feels like a trade show, but I have to carry my own small sort of European booth (these standalone plastic kiosks you see at European trade shows) on my back. It’s heavy and my mouth is dry—my mouth is always dry at trade shows because of the heavily processed air. I am looking around for where my booth should go, and I’m lost in this series of hallways. Everyone around me is sure that at this convention they are going to get laid. They keep saying to one another, “I am going to get laid at this convention, I’m sure of it.” And Arnold Schwarzeneggar is there, but an Arnold gone to seed, whose Armani suit fits him like Huey Long’s clothes did, over a fat stomach. He’s got heavy jowls and bags under his eyes, but he’s in a good mood, shouting “Will you look at all this pussy? Ja! Ja!” Arnold is slapping everyone on the back, cawing that everyone is going to get laid. “We’re all going to get laid! Ja!” Arnold shouts, slapping people on the back, as though this is a “rowdy movie set” and he’s somehow become governor of California in 1934 despite his poor English and slovenly appearance.

    I put my booth down and go to look for the bathroom. Arnold follows me, pinching women on the ass and slapping men on the back. It’s morning in America, again, and we’re all going to get laid.

    I find the bathroom. But Arnold is storming in, followed by crowds. I wonder where I left my booth, because I’ve got a book to promote. I realize that the bathroom stall is a voting booth.

    That’s the dream I keep having.

    Moving Beyond Dean

    Dana Blankenhorn, in an email thread, has suggested that MoveOn is the logical inheritor of Howard Dean’s efforts. He suggests an alliance of MoveOn and MeetUp to take the value of Dean’s campaign to the next level, with a broad-based local campaign effort.

    Here are my thoughts:

    At this point, the remonstrances by Deaniacs of people who have lost confidence in Dean is threatening to destroy what has been built. Dean’s is a shaky coalition, at best. And, while it has 600,000 supporters who have contributed at one time or another, it is hardly populist, because the campaign hasn’t successfully integrated any new issues from the grassroots.

    Following on what Dana suggests, I think the opportunity now is to establish a permanent activism, one that can have the influence of the Christian Coalition and the roots of a populist movement. We need, in addition to channels for action, reservoirs of information and opinion like those the neocons built starting in the 1970s and 80s. Information is essential to recovering the political center, as it arms people for debate, which shifts the ideological center (now at its most extreme rightward position in American history).

    That permanent activism has to happen at the local level, with candidates tapping the resources activated by the Dean campaign. Simply shifting to another Democrat at the presidential level will leave nothing of the “movement.” It has to experience a rebirth at the bottom and spread, during this election cycle and the 2006 election cycle to give a real populist flavor to 2008.

    If Deanspace and other tools from the Dean campaign have to come with Dean’s name and cause attached, we should appropriate other tools, including MeetUp, the social networks, and anything else at hand to buttress democracy against another four years of Bush in the White House, whether he wins or not. Democracy is in peril, after all, and that is an important catalyst for action.

    I don’t agree that MoveOn is the tool we need. It is an organization, but not a locally focused one and transforming it seems unlikely to me because of its ongoing success raising money and organizing at the national level. Running television ads about the presidential race is useful, but it won’t win any local campaigns.

    We need something bigger, many things, many movements that sweep everything from the filling of potholes and local funding for schools to foreign policy issues into a venue for individual and community action that makes citizen action, not the parties, the center of political power.

    MeetUp is certainly one important tool that is already successful at organizing local emanations of national movements (from Wicca to Deaniacs). A national system of people’s caucuses would be another valuable tool, I think — and this could be organized through MeetUp. Remember, Pierre Omidyar has invested in MeetUp and the company is looking for something like this. I’d suggest focusing a plan on how MeetUp’s physical meeting facilitation can be exposed as a Web service for a variety of organizing tools to tap. Everything from email/calendaring apps (a MeetUp plugin for Outlook and iLife) to Ryze/Tribe/orkut APIs for scheduling and promoting physical and virtual meetings. Most importantly, build so that it remains a tool for all rather than becoming a captive of a single candidate, so that the network of political influence can exist without a single heroic leader.

    Undecided in a deciding world

    It looks like it will be a Kerry/Edwards ticket for the Democrats this year and let’s hope they can beat Bush—I’ll do everything I can to help, because Bush has to be beaten. But when I go to the Washington state caucus this Saturday, I’ll be urging my precinct to send uncommitted delegates to the county convention, because, at this point, the real question is how much we voters can make our voices heard in this campaign when it comes to setting the Democratic party platform. We need healthcare reform, a restoration of education based on equity and opportunity with radical reform of the local and national funding of schools, we need absolute assurances of our civil liberties, an economic platform that emphasizes job and small business formation. An uncommitted delegate is in the position to demand attention from the rest of the party, even if for only a moment, before votes are cast at a convention.

    Howard Dean had stood for some of this, but I’ve lost faith in the Dean campaign for three reasons:

    First, Dean grossly underestimated the role voters want to play in this campaign and we hear it each time he urges people to “join me” or “join us” to create institutional change. Voters want to lead this change, not follow. The “I have a scream speech” showed that he was willing to ignore most of America; it is the fact that he didn’t turn his attention to the national audience when he had it—when he could speak to ordinary Americans—that betrays a failure of imagination.

    Second, the Dean campaign may have done an extraordinary job raising money, but they spent it profligately and irresponsibly. Dean tonight acknowledged that his campaign has spent more than $40 million of the $42 million it has raised. An awful lot went to ads placed in Iowa and New Hampshire, with as much as 15 percent of the money flowing into the coffers of Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi’s consulting firm, and unusually large amounts spent on consultants and staff. That means that actual volunteering accounted for less than the normal percentage of the work being done, in stark contrast to the mission statement of the campaign.

    That last statement may sound like an illogical leap, because we don’t know the value of volunteer work in the Dean campaign. However, if he spent $40 million and had unprecedented support from volunteers (which, in the technology area of the campaign is absolutely the case, though in the field it isn’t clear that Dean had anymore people canvassing or driving folks to the polls), then his campaign did the worst job imaginable in converting those resources into votes. We have to assume that the money was the main resource available, since volunteers bring voters to the poll. Either that, or the Dean camp is really bad at grassroots politics. One way or the other, that’s not the makings of an administration I can count on. Maybe Joe Trippi’s experience in the technology business during the bubble years made him think this is the way you run a business, but it is not. Nor is profligacy a foundation for a populist campaign.

    Third, Governor Dean is blaming everyone within pointing distance for the failure of the campaign, including “the Establishment,” the media and the attacks by his Democratic competitors. I heard him do it twice today on local radio when he was in Washington campaigning. In reality, a campaign’s results are the fruit of its labor and leader. He made the boneheaded decision to give a pep talk in front of a national audience. He made the decision to convert his campaign from an insurgency into a coronation by shifting to an endorsements-based strategy when endorsements mean almost nothing to voters (except endorsements by organizations, of which Dean has his share, but only a share). He chooses to blame others and bring a Washington insider into the campaign while decrying Washington insiders—and, in fact, from what I hear, Roy Neel, the new campaign manager who was Al Gore’s chief of staff, has made things run more smoothly and responsively. Nevertheless, Howard Dean is ready to blame everyone but himself for his failure to connect with voters and that’s not what I want in a president.

    So, that’s the way it is with this Democrat on February 3, 2004. Undecided on the ticket, certain to vote against Bush in 2004.

    Two conference blogging events

    I’ll be blogging for Red Herring (set a new bookmark here to keep up to the minute) at the social software sessions at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and O’Reilly Digital Democracy Teach-In, where former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, who pioneered the user of social software in politics, will make his first public appearance since leaving the campaign. The following week, we’ll be at DEMO 2004, where blogging and bloggers will be heavily featured.