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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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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Perfect Storm: 2008

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, February 27, 2008 permalink View blog reactions

On May 17th, 2003, Joe Trippi posted a blog entry at the unofficial Dean Nation weblog entitled simply, The Perfect Storm. In that post, since reprinted many times elsewhere, he wrote like the prophet he is:

never -- until now -- would there ever have been any hope of 1 million Americans contributing $100 each to take back their country and promote a common vision for the future of the nation. Maybe it will be 2 million who contribute $50. But the Internet makes that possible. Or maybe it will be 5 million Americans contributing $20. The tools, energy, leadership and the right candidate, are all in place to create the Perfect Storm of Presidential politics -- where millions of Americans act together and organize their communities, their neighborhoods and their precincts. It is ironic I think that the Perfect Storm may indeed be made possible by the internet -- but in the end the real storm it may create is the largest grassroots/election day get-out-the-vote -- shoe leather/door knocking organization in the history of American politics.

I have said before that it sounds audacious.

And audacious it was. But Hope is, after all, audacious. The Dean campaign promised 5 years ago that We the People, not they the consultants and the elites and the lobbyists and the punditocracy, would own the campaign. Now, 5 years later, the seeds planted back then have borne fruit, and People-Powered Politics is a reality. One Million Strong for Barack Obama!

Can we identify the reasons for the success of 2008 vs the failure of 2004? Part of it is the love affair for Obama vs the antipathy towards Dean (though of course that could change overnight, capriciously). But I think that another part of it is technology itself. One of the greatest failures of the dean campaign was to avoid Scoop and settle on Moveable Type for its platform; the My Barack Obama site in contrast is essentially a complete blogsphere unto itself. You can even have your own customized real-time baseball bat. I mean, thermometer.

There are also the non-blogsphere components, such as mySpace and Facebook (which I have argued, the liberal netroots have spectacularly failed to capitalize on). There is a rift between the blog elite and the youth vote, and it grows wider, but the Obama campaign has bridged the gap.

But I think that we also have to acknowledge that the man himself brings more to the table than an empty suit and blank screen. Howard Dean never had the charisma of Barack Obama. Whereas Dean was undisciplined, Obama is always on message. Dean fumbled his lines (confederate flags and pickup trucks, anyone?) while Obama scores a touchdown (the audacity of hope. One America instead of Two).

Ultimately, though, there is a synergy between the man and the movement, and the latter is why the campaign has succeeded. 1 million people, literally true. The Perfect Storm, of technology, candidate, and grassroots.

Hillary, you would have made a great President. But Obama is the heir to Howard Dean's legacy, and I cannot subdue my love for the process of democracy, of that soaring rhetoric that Obama merely borrows from the original source document of our freedom.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

That is the ethos of the People-Powered movement, the reason we are crashing the Gates. That is why we believe in the 50-state strategy. Because we love this country, and believe that our values are indeed universal ones. That is why we fight. And that is why we will WIN.

And now, not only are we going to Texas and Ohio, Mrs. Clinton, we're going to Rhode Island and Vermont and Wyoming and Mississippi and Pennsylvania, and we're going to Indiana and North Carolina and West Virginia. And we're going to Kentucky and Oregon and Montana and South Dakota, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! YEEEAAARGGGH!

We are taking our country back. And this time you can't stop us.

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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.