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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004


what is influence?

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, February 24, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Bill Rehm in comments to my dysphoric post below raised this important and basic question:

Define influence. Are you seriously arguing that the decision re: which blog software to use has any import at all?

I don't see it. Were we shaping Dean's policy positions? I doubt it. Would I want to be? Sorry, that's not my line of work. I support the man and respect his positions, although I didn't agree with all of them.

The definition of influence may vary between people, but here's mine: influencing the items on the agenda. Not the proposed policy solutions per se, but rather what the issues are that we want our politician to address.

For example, in the context of beating Bush - we all wanted Dean to come out swinging on the Plame Affair. He didn't, and a vital opportunity was lost. Another issue we wanted Dean to go after was the mistreatment of the military under Bush, which Dean partially addressed but never really developed into a coherent "Repblicans are soft on defense" argument. Kerry has succeeded in this recently and is being rewarded for it at the polls.

A more nuts and bolts example is the fact that the campaign advertisements were terrible. We all had universal agreement on this fact - but the campaign was utterly tone-deaf. The "switch" commercials were frankly too insider-y and came far too late in the game. Imagine what would have happened if the campaign had listened to Dean Nation's collective proposal of a "I am Howard Dean" commercial? And if that ad had played at the Superbowl?

The true measure of influence is an ability to change the priorities of the campaign - in actual campaigning as well as setting the policy agenda. In neither of these were we sucessful. The netroots were a goldmine of ideas in comment threads, of which the best ones floated to the top to become full-fledged posts. Had the campaign skimmed the best of these ideas, put them on the o-blog and refined them with additional feedback, so much more could have been achieved.


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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.