Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama

By Daniel Kreiss | Go to book overview

4
Wiring the Party

After a bleak January 2004, Dean’s staffers had little left in the nomination calendar to look forward to. Staffers at Dean headquarters in Burlington felt sadness and exhaustion after the campaign’s fortunes dramatically reversed in a short period of time. Some just drifted away, heading back home to make up for missed classes and neglected families. Others took up last stands against the presumptive nominee in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. And yet, during that harsh winter of 2004, as comments on Blog for America tapered off, fund-raising fell to a trickle, and their guru Joe Trippi headed for sunnier climes, the phones of Dean’s Internet staffers were ringing off the hook. Michael Silberman, national Meetup director, recalls that in the midst of a wreck of a campaign the future was unexpectedly bright, as everyone in the political world wanted to hire him and his colleagues: “We all received calls from people trying to poach us…. We were all pretty well marketable at the time, probably more so than we knew.”1

ith their extraordinary validation as the arbiters of a new kind of politics and an acute sense of the technological needs of campaigns, these staffers found a number of employment opportunities and potential clients at hand. As such, even as Democrats across the country began to focus on electing John Kerry (or defeating George W. Bush), many of Dean’s former staffers were hard at work creating new political ventures. The result was an impressive array of political organizations, such as the New Organizing Institute (NOI), and consultancies, such as Blue State Digital and EchoDitto, which together helped disseminate, formalize, and extend many of the Dean campaign’s innovations in online campaigning. This new generation of political intermediaries helped create an infrastructure for Democratic online campaigning. While there was little carryover in personnel working with new media between the presidential cycles of 2000 and 2004, these intermediaries provided staffers who got their political start during the 2004 elections with opportunities to stay in politics. In turn, drawing on what they learned in 2004, Dean’s former staffers built dedicated electoral tools and developed best practices for engaging supporters online. These intermediaries also helped to create a stable pool of political

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