The Dean campaign in 2003 vs. 2007: where's the energy?
by Tom Streeter, Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 04:15:12 PM EDT
This is a new book out that's about Howard Dean's campaign, written by individuals in the campaign the chance to tell their stories with an eye to documenting the Internet campaign revolution and providing lessons to future campaigns. I've got a chapter in it, that I'll post more about later hopefully. Here's Tom Streeter to talk about the book, jerome
Having recently had the honor of editing a collection of stories about the internet and the Dean campaign by campaign veterans (Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope), I can't help thinking about the differences between then and now, between the fall of 2003 when Howard Dean was upending all the rules and leading the most significant grassroots Presidential campaign in a generation -- and now, when we have a bunch of perhaps interesting candidates but very little of the energy. What's different? What's the same? Where's the energy?
Maybe the energy is just spread out. Dean's type is no longer alone. In 2003 Howard Dean stood alone in both his politics (the war etc.), his straightforward style, and of course his use of the internet. Now, everyone is using the internet, and a significant chunk of the Democratic party has followed Dean's lead away from triangulation, being Republican-lite, and disdain for the grassroots. Edwards, Obama, Richardson and others have all adopted elements of Dean's political playbook and principles.
But as I read and listened to the stories of people who were deeply involved in the campaign, I can't help thinking that there's more to it than that. In 2003, spontaneous efforts were breaking out all over the country on behalf of Dean, without guidance and often without knowledge from headquarters. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see much of that now. In spite of some candidates' efforts to do things differently, it seems like it's mostly about money and TV news shows again. What happened? What can be done about it?
If you want to be taken back to that time, you can read Amanda Michel's chapter about the creation of GenerationDean. (This was the largest youth movement of this type at least since the McGovern campaign.) Or as Zephyr Teachout puts it, reflecting back on 2003:
"I forget sometimes that we did, but we really believed. As mechanical and jaded as we were about some of the operations . . . there was a core passion that we all shared about actually changing the shape of political society.
"There's no clear answer to me about why that happened . . . It's not so simple as the DNC speech or the NYC Meetup flipping a switch. I don't remember when I first started believing that it was possible--this restructuring of society . . . I like to think some of the tools I had a hand in were instrumental--Get Local and so on--but I can really imagine the Dean campaign without all of these things, except perhaps Meetup. What I can't imagine is the Dean campaign without that conviction and belief, the culture of passionate, pragmatic work toward something much different and bigger than a candidate--the tool that made up the molecular structure of everything we did--in a deeply contentious, anxious environment, the one tool that held us all together, if barely."
Where did it go?
Tom Streeter, Burlington, Vermont