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Thursday, May 08, 2003


The Inspiration Primary

posted by Ezra at Thursday, May 08, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
There have been a lot of primaries in this election cycle already. The money primary, the Shrum primary, the staffing primary, and so on. I've even heard there are a few primaries down the road that have actual voting in them, so look forward to those. But there was one "primary" that I had totally missed until Rick Klau reminded me of it. That is the inspiration primary. As many of you know, my choice in this election was Gary Hart, he inspired me. As Rick Klau found out, I wasn't the only one with a devotion to Hart. I think inspiration is a factor that is left out of polling and the standard political articles, MeetUp has done much to measure it, but MeetUp demonstrates net savvy and campaign strategy as much as it does inspiration, so I'm not sure that serves as an effective marker either.

This is a primary Dean is winning handily. Note that the candidate with the second highest MeetUp numbers wasn't Kerry or Edwards, it was Hart. It's becoming apparent to me that Dean, whatever his faults, is inspiring far more people than any other candidate. In fact, I'm hard pressed to identify one candidate save Dean (and maybe Kucinich, does he count?) who is inspiring anyone. Gephardt is looking better, Lieberman did well in the debate, Kerry is a strong candidate, Graham is a solid candidate, Sharpton is a funny candidate, but no one is getting inspired by these men. At best, they feel secure in their potential, but no one revels in their promise. A while back I wanted to create a group blog that would be staffed by supporters of every candidate, so the Gephardt people could talk to the Dean people could talk to the Lieberman people could talk to the...The problem was, I couldn't find anybody who was really into any candidates save for Dean and Hart.

Inspiration is a most intangible quality. Everyone wants to wield it, but few are ever able. When the candidates are pleading for the young to get involved because they want to run a campaign like RFK did, they aren't really making a serious appeal to the youth, they are trying to recreate RFK's ability to inspire. They want to be RFK, and so are attempting to put into place some of what he did, but they are doing it artificially while he did it naturally.

Dean, however, is inspiring people. When I criticize other candidates, I never hear a word. But when I go against something Dean said or did, I have 15 comments, all of them rabid. It's like attacking a religion. Despite my feelings on the utility of that, it shows that people are latching on to Dean ferociously. They're not with him because he's the lesser of two evils or he's highly electable (not to say that he isn't), they're with him because they believe in him, and that's a very, very important difference. For that reason, I think Dean is stronger than he is being given credit for. There are still weaknesses which must be addressed, but on the whole of it, inspired voters are worth more than a vote, they're worth the vote of their friends, and relatives, and social circles...23% inspired is different than 23% favorable, and I am very anxious to see Dean's grassroots appeal live up to that promise. He has the potential right now to run the type of campaign that hasn't been seen for decades, one in which the candidate is carried to the Presidency on the backs of his believers. And if he stops with the attacks and continues with the appeals to the highest ideals of our democracy, his potential just might become our reality.

By the way, my name's Ezra Klein and I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic par-err, I mean, I'll be posting here some from now on.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.