Ch. 3, "Theories," Tom Streeter and Zephyr Teachout
. . . When a community comes up against alternative systems of meaning or sudden shifts in the social fabric, previously held “truths” are suddenly no longer truths but concepts, available for scrutiny and perhaps change. These can be moments of both disquieting vertigo and unusual hope; so much becomes uncertain, and so much becomes conceivable.
The Dean campaign, we believe, was such a moment. The chapters that follow are in a sense stories of life at a moment when old certainties dissolved and new possibilities opened up—stories of life inside a paradigm shift. . . . .
. . . It is important that the Dean campaign, at least on the inside, was not itself organized around a belief in technological determinism. As the following chapters make clear, the campaign focus was on human interconnection, by any means: traditional letter writing, canvassing, and of course varieties of face-to-face encounters from meetups to house parties to Iowa’s “perfect storm” were always central to the campaign. . . . Within the campaign, Internet technology was seen as a tool, as one tool among many, not as a cause, and certainly not as something whose effects could be taken for granted.
Broadly, we find it useful to think of the role of the Internet in the campaign not as a strictly technological issue, but as something more like architecture or urban design. The capacity to build with concrete, brick, and glass is one thing; the specific design of buildings and neighborhoods is another. The technological capacity to communicate via computers using websites, discussion lists, and e-mail was already more than a decade old by the time of the Dean campaign. Meetups, blogs, and so forth were a design innovation more than a technology, in a class with public parks or row houses. What was new in 2002 and 2003 was the adoption of new architectures for campaigning at a time of political crisis, and the social integration of these into political discourse and organization.
Ch. 4, How a Blogger and the Dean Campaign Discovered Each Other, by Jerome Armstrong
. . . Already, even though Dean was stuck at 1 percent in national polls, something entirely different was happening within the blogging community. I performed a poll on August 1, 2002, on MyDD, and Dean was in second place to Al Gore, with 390 users voting: Gore (159) 41 percent; Dean (135) 35 percent; Kerry (48) 12 percent; Edwards (39) 10 percent; Gephardt (9) 2 percent.
I blogged on August 8, to the community of Dean supporters, “Taken at face value, this MyDD user poll is a good indicator for Dean that he is a viable candidate, and in the thick of the race for the Democratic nomination for President. … Let’s admit that we have a lean for Dean. . . . Could it be that we are seeing signs amongst early adopters when informed of his candidacy, positions, and persona?” . . .
There was a linkage between mainstream coverage of Howard Dean in television interviews and the spike in traffic that it would create on the MyDD pages supporting Dean for President, as people wanted to learn more about Dean. A number of other political blogs linked to the page, and then ABC’s influential “The Note” drew in a couple of thousand visitors (huge for the time), noting the election countdown on the page. In the middle of July, Howard Dean had ventured onto Meet the Press, and hundreds of new visitors arrived on the website. I didn’t have a ton of website coding or graphic expertise, and people who didn’t see the prominent disclaimer and link to Dean’s PAC website and mistook it for the actual campaign site would e-mail in advice or criticisms . . .
Ch 5, Something Much Bigger than a Candidate, by Zephyr Teachout
. . . It was early February 2003. I sat at a table across from consultant Joe Trippi and proudly showed him a proposal for managing the volunteers in the seventeen states for which I was responsible as a new deputy field director. I started talking him through a plan involving three volunteer groupings in each state, communication charts built like Amway or Tupperware. Trippi looked at my charts blankly for a moment and then started staring over my shoulder and shaking his head. “You are approaching this all wrong,” he said.
Then he told me the story of Cortés.
When Cortés came to conquer and pillage South America, Trippi said, his men landed on the shore and made an initial assessment. They found thousands of warriors laying in wait, and reported to Cortés that attack was impossible and they would surely be slaughtered. He listened and took their counsel—we’ll camp on the beach for the night, he said, and leave in the morning.
That night, while his men slept, Cortés ordered one of his aides to take a small rowboat out to the ships and burn them.
In the morning the men woke and saw they had no escape. So they fought with the fury of people who have nothing to lose.
This, he said, is the Cortés campaign.
Ch. 6, Swept Up in “The Perfect Storm", by Bobby Clark
. . . The campaign’s technical challenges were worse than Abbey had described. Many of the computers had been purchased from UVM surplus. The only server was also being used as the desktop computer for the reception desk, and it was riddled with viruses. So I spent most of my time trying to play substitute for a real IT staff.
I was in between putting out technical fires one afternoon when Rick Ridder emerged from a meeting with Governor Dean and informed me that I would get a shot at designing the site. That was the good news. The bad news was that I would have very little time to propose something. In two days Governor Dean would compare whatever design I proposed with the other alternative that was already in progress and then make a decision. Two days wouldn’t be enough to go through any kind of serious design process. A design process is supposed to be thoughtful and thorough, and, realistically, should involve multiple iterations. But in the hyper-condensed timeline of a campaign, you rarely have the luxury of fretting about how things are supposed to work—you just have to get it done. Fortunately, I had already worked with some designer friends to create a demo Dean for America website to gain Rick’s confidence and prod him into letting me work on Dean’s Internet effort. With no time to do anything else, that demo site would now have to become my proposal to Governor Dean.
There was just one problem. When we created that demo, we had no images or other content to work with. There was an existing campaign website, of sorts, but it had almost nothing on it—a logo, minimal copy, and only a couple of photographs that weren’t particularly good. So we had created the demo site using images from various West Wing sites. The Bartletts had stood in as the Deans. . . . So we did the best we could with very little content to modify the demo site and turn it a Dean for America design, using the real Howard Dean instead of Jed Bartlett. . . .
Ch. 14, Email: Sign your own name, by Kelly Nuxoll
Nicco introduced me to Zephyr Teachout. “How do you manage your e-mail?” she asked.
“We’re hiring as you as the e-mail manager. I think that’s a fair question. How do you manage your e-mail?”
“I pretty much put it in folders with people’s names on them.”
“Makes sense,” she said. “You’re hired!”
Great—but to do what? No one seemed to know. The only thing that seemed clear was that e-mail mattered to everybody: the finance department used it to invite supporters to fund-raisers, the field department to advertise events, political to inform voters about voting locations and elections, the web team to establish the message. Somehow, I would have to streamline e-mail with the rest of the campaign. . . .
Ch. 19, The Legacies of Dean’s Internet Campaign, Zephyr Teachout and Thomas Streeter
. . . In coming years, Dean-inspired politicians will have substantial political power in the United States. The historical legacy of the campaign is often spoken about in indirect terms: It showed what was possible; it opened the doors to technology. But the direct legacy of those who were involved is also a critical part of the story. A nontrivial number of the people who commented on blogs, attended events, and suggested strategies were fundamentally reoriented by these experiences. The campaign was open to genuine voice, distributed political authority, and strategic ideas from the edges, so that people experienced being taken seriously and having impact.
Hundreds of thousands of people who had never previously been engaged in politics became authors and found a political voice and political authority. Pam Paul, Aldon Hynes, and Josh Koenig are both extraordinary and representative: Before 2003, they had not imagined themselves as political actors and political strategists, but their interaction with the campaign led them to understand themselves and their role in U.S. electoral politics differently. Even Amanda Michel, Michael Silberman, Nicco Mele, and Bobby Clark—who, though political novices, entered as paid campaign professionals—were transformed by their experiences, and speak about democracy in a language that is unlikely to have come from any of them five or six years ago.
The direct legacy of the 650,000 people who were on the Dean e-mail list, the over 1,000 people who led local meetups, the over 1,000 people who managed listservs on local and constituency topics, and the people who collectively organized over 3,000 events a month for several months in late 2003 should not be underestimated.
Over 100 communities created their own post-campaign political organizations—or active chapters of national groups—that comment on policy, send out press releases, endorse candidates, and perform public service. Many of these are incorporated nonprofits with strong structure and funding. Latinos for Texas, for example—a Texas group with thousands of members and over 25 events a year—is managed by Mario Champion, a technology educator who involved himself in politics because of the Dean campaign. Ben Stanfield, the founder of the Draft Obama website, which organized thousands of people to attend events in New Hampshire, Maryland, and around the country in an effort to jump-start Obama’s grassroots efforts, became politically active through Dean meetups.