Jon Garfunkel February 9 Election 2004 | Building/Consensus | trackback url
My thoughts on the Dean campaign:

The social software and use of the Internet attracted the media, the media attracted attention, and Howard Dean rode the polls up. He peaked too early, and he was stung too many attacks; he criticized the “Washington establishment” of Democrats while soliciting endorsements from them. (In 1992, it was seemed ok for Jerry Brown, or even Ross Perot, to criticize the Washington Democrats for rolling over in the Reagan/Bush years. Now, when liberals think of this group, we like to think of them as the last people defending our nation from indulging into a dangerous cocktail of laissez-faire attitude and crony capitalism, and the preventing the extension of the state of paranoia). Dean just wasn’t the best candidate. The only question left was, how did he spend $40M?

The DeanSpace team– the ones driving the technology for the campaign– have been asking whether anything went wrong. (I followed DeanSpace only in the last several weeks, so I have a marginal association at best). Mark Ratcliffe provides a summary of answers in his Meta-Analysis of the Dean Campaign. A few commentators, such as the pseudonymous Spengler of the Asia Times, have made an ill-informed comparison of DeanSpace developers to a “dotcom startup”, and compare the “crash” to the Internet bubble. (It was roundly criticized by letters to the editor). The only thing I can add is some insight that the “social software” used by the Dean campaign wasn’t always social, and sometimes it was anti-social.

But I’m thinking positively going forward:

  1. The software has to continue to be developed, especially along the lines of fostering truly effective deliberation. The emphasis on blogs will be subsumed into more comprehensive community systems. I call it constructive media. Whatever the technique is, it has to be more thorough-sounding than just “Internet-based”.
  2. We’d have to start using the software for local, smaller efforts, and prove that they are effective complements to committee-meeting politics.
  3. We need candidates who really believe in this stuff and practice it, and make their way from the beginning of their political career using it.

Does Howard Dean remain the patron saint of the movement? Not to me, really. It is ultimately ironic that the politician most associated with the Internet, Al Gore, did not inspire this movement after losing the most contested election in the modern age. So maybe it would be prudent to evolve the software to DemSpace for now, that would certainly please the Democratic nominee. It also might call to attention that there’s no comparable “GopSpace”.

Update, March 1: On Feb. 22, the DeanSpace crew reorganized at Web of Mass Democracy. I think I’ll be listing some of the Civilities projects there soon. They are still dedicated to Dean, mostly, through their “Unity Statement”. We’ll see tomorrow.
Update, April, 5: Dean’s campaign has become Democracy for America on March 17th, and his Meetups now meet under that name. The website is a bit lackluster, and does not really articulate how DfA will be distinct from the main Democratic Party/Kerry for President efforts.
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