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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, September 28, 2004


The O-Blog sucked

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, September 28, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
A strong title, to be sure, but one that immediately leapt to my mind after reading Farhad Manjoo's excellent article in Salon on blogging (watch an ad for a day pass). Farhad mentions how at Dailykos, a Diarist (Zackpunk) wrote an excellent piece, which was Recommended, then Promoted, and ultimately ended up in Kerry's stump speech. That's the true power of Scoop as a system of community building that allows a campaign to skim the best of the ideas from the proverbial Chaos of participatory democracy.

That's a capability that Moveable Type, old technology that the Dean campagn's o-blog never graduated from, sorely lacks. Farhad asks:

In the Dean campaign, Trippi and other advisors professed to rely on the readers of the official Howard Dean blog for at least some strategic advice; we'll never know if this advice ultimately helped Dean, propelling him to a position that he never would have attained without help from the bloggers, or whether, in the end, the cultish Deaniac movement drove people away from Dean and did in his candidacy.

Farhad is mistaken - Trippi may have taken thematic cues from the o-blog community, but to my knowledge never used any of our strategic advice. The o-blog was an echo chamber, where dissenting and critical voices were drowned out in a sea of raw enthusiasm. Here on the Dean blog, we were much more strident, and we as a sub-community within the larger Dean movement produced many excellent ideas that were never capitalized on. The best example is the "I am Howard Dean" Superbowl Ad idea, which I still think would have had a decisive impact, and would have been relatively cheap compared to the monetary outflow in the later stages of the campaign.

Had the Dean campaign listened to us more, things might have been different indeed - says Peter Beinart in TIME, "If Dean were the nominee, flip-flops wouldn't be the issue; Iraq would. The former Vermont Governor opposed the war from the start, and his rationale was as simple as Kerry's was convoluted: Saddam was not a threat."

We tried at Dean Nation to promote ideas from the comments (some good, some fanciful - see the Blimp), but we never had the resources to run Scoop. The Dean campaign DID have those resources, and had both Markos and Jerome on the payroll - but when they proposed Scoop, the campaign rejected the idea, prefering to stick with Moveable Type. The reason is clear: Scoop is too much "people power" and not "top down" enough. For all Joe's visionary rhetoric about bottoms-up democracy, Scoop was just too scary for what was essentially a classic old-fashioned campaign, managerially speaking.

I'm previewing my upcoming review of Trippi's book a bit here, but my general point is that the Dean campaign did not suffer from letting the inmates run the asylum. It suffered from not believeing in itself - and the inmates - enough to let them take over. When the campaign became too conservative in its approach, too wedded to the intoxicating fandom at the o-blog instead of the constructive criticism here at Dean Nation, it lost the reins of the powerful force that drove it.

As Daily Kos proves, and Salon recognizes, there's more to this Net Roots thing than just fund raising. Sadly, the Dean campaign never realized it. At least Kerry gets it now, somewhat...

BTW, here's llamasonic's original Dean Blimp page.


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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.