By Mark Hanson
If I had a pound for everyone who’s spoken to me about the success enjoyed by the Obama campaign online I’d be a rich man! (How many Brits have you met claiming to have been ‘involved’ in the Obama campaign?)
The message of what can be achieved, though, is well and truly hitting home, which is a great thing for those of us that have been using new media to achieve things for a couple of years to finally see these ideas become mainstream.
The campaign that truly inspired me was Howard Dean’s ill-fated bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004. An outsider who was real and articulated the concerns of the grassroots – propelled along by the organising capacity of new media – Dean himself was rewarded with a position heading up the Democratic National Committee.
The lessons of this were all over the Obama campaign, although a far more professional and polished version. It therefore saddened me to see Obama’s team, specifically Chief Of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, giving Dean the cold shoulder when it came to appointments to Obama’s team in the White House.
At the root is the conflict between the Democratic elite (Emmanuel, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid etc) and the Dean constituency over campaign priorities. The Washington guys want to target swing states, concentrate power in the centre, butter-up large donors. The Dean approach is the 50 state strategy, which emphasises linking local parties to decision making and investing in their long term capacity, regardless of whether there’s a realistic chance of the Democrats winning them at the next election.
It looks as though it might be a return to old-style politics now that the election is in the bag. The netroots are urging Dean to start his own Party. He already has a million-member organisation called Democracy For America as well as huge credibility with those ordinary folk who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Obama’s race for the White House.