December 26, 2003

A Note to the Dean Campaign

First off let me offer a big congratulations Jim Moore, who is now Director of Internet and Information Services for the Dean campaign!

Now, as an independent I've decided not to offer any recommendations on who the registered Deomocrats pick as their nominee, but damn Dean continues to impress. Can't help but like the relentless energy he brings. He's been doing remarkably well not just in well covered opening up of internet campaigning, but also in the traditional political games of endorsements and handshakes. That's two thirds of new school politics right there.

It's the other third where I'd like to see Dean spend some real energy. The realm of pop culture and mass media. Sometimes I get an impression the campaign just wants to route around the media via the internet, and that seems like the path straight to failure. Compare Dean and Clark's Rock the Vote ads. Dean is better then the also rans for sure, but it's a play to his base, not a play to win. Clark's ad on the other hand is a masterful piece of editing, with a punch line that sticks. That's how the media game gets played. And if Dean can't step up to the Clark level in this arena, then Bush/Rove can cakewalk over a Dean nomination.

With that in mind I highly recommend the Dean team get their hands on Danny Goldberg's Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit. Hopefully they already have some dogeared copies, but I haven't seen the evidence yet... Goldberg's book is probably only going to be enjoyable by political junkies, but his core argument is damn strong.

Despite the fact that a majority of pop culture players are quite liberal in their politics, the left is alienating itself from the pop culture audience. Schwarzenegger in California being the latest example of how the right wing completely out plays the left in this area. The left has an infinitely larger pool of pop culture stars that could be transformed into winning politicians. But it's the right wing that takes people like Schwarzenegger and Reagan and actually turns them into political players. And all the while the left allows fools like Joe Lieberman alienate masses of Americans. Goldberg tells the long story in his book. Lets hope team Dean is paying attention.

More then anything I'm worried that Dean's people might mistake internet populism with a broader breed of popularity, when in fact it might well be another form of snobbery. The connections formed through blogs and Meet Ups are quite remarkable, but at the same time they also alienate outsiders. Quite honestly the site of someone wearing one of those blue Dean pins (is that really the best design the campaign can muster?), triggers a fight or flight instinct in me similar to being approached by a Moonie or Hare Krishna. No way can that be good for winning the general election...

But the games just picking up, lets hope the Democrats settle on a nominee without beating each other (themselves) too much. The Democrats can win 2004 and they can win it strong. And as I've said before, for just this one election they have the guarantee of my vote.

Posted by Abe at December 26, 2003 10:34 PM