from Dean to Obama
On the night of Obama’s election, new media staffers hit “send” on a final “thank you” e-mail to supporters and raced down to Grant Park to hear the president-elect declare that “change has come to America.” It was a euphoric moment for those who endured months of 20-hour days in a committed effort to elect the nation’s first African American president. These staffers helped achieve what to most political observers was a long shot in the early days of 2007. Together, they endured a bruising and exceptionally hard-fought primary battle against the party’s most well-known and well-resourced candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton, and faced down the campaign of their Republican rivals, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Through it all, new media staffers transformed the inchoate desire of those inspired by the candidate’s powerful rhetoric into concrete resources, from the funding that opened field offices to the volunteers who contacted millions of voters through online calling tools. They also helped to register thousands of voters, countered the wild rumors propagated by Obama’s detractors, and coordinated thousands of supporters crossing state lines to canvass in contested states.
This book reveals how the active crafting of Democratic networked politics over much of the last decade helped to put Obama in the White House. In doing so, the book shows how campaigns do not simply exist within a social and technological context that determines the form of online politics. Campaigns, as well as parties, consultancies, and advocacy and social movement organizations, actively shape that context through their new media work. The Dean campaign was not simply the product of shifting online social practices and new networked applications that helped millions of Americans become more comfortable with purchasing commercial products and taking political action online. While these factors were important, the Dean campaign was an organizational and technical achievement. Staffers’ appropriation and modification of existing tools and development of new ones shaped the extraordinary success of the campaign at raising