The virtual war room

In chapter 2, I talk about how the Blog for America functions as (among other things) a virtual “war roon” for the Dean Campaign.
E Pluribus Unum expands on this idea in "Annoy the media. Swing the bat.":

# This mechanism takes the “rapid response” of the Clinton campaign War Room look quaint. Clinton (or more accurately Carville and Stephanopolous) understood that charges must be answered in the same news-cycle in which they were made. They got very good at reaching their constituency through the mainstream news media. Go rent “The War Room,” and excellent documentary account of the Clinton campaign of ’92. You’ll see what I mean.
# The Dean machine goes that one better by bypassing the mainstream media altogether; they don’t seek to dominate the airwaves with expensive ads. No, the Deaniacs have their own network, a better way to reach their constituency — free from bothersome regulations from the FCC, et. al. It evolved, not from the top down like the Bush machine, but rather everywhere, all at once, like crystals forming on an icy windowpane.
Let me put it another way — in the early 60’s savvy politicians understood that television was an advertising medium after all. Buy the time, advertise the message, reach your constituency. That idea transformed political campaigns for the next 35 years. It transformed the two-party system into the one-party system. In other words, unless you belonged to the Television Party, you weren’t going to be elected.
To the Deaniacs, the Television Party and its supporting infrastructure (the “mainstream media”) is irrelevant; furthermore, they probably hold it in as much contempt as the Bushies do. “Annoy the media. Swing the bat.” They coalesced around another technology; the Web. They used the web to help them organize and communicate. And, unlike the mainstream media which relies on one-way broadcasts, the Web is two-way — send directly to your constituency and receive back directly from your constituency. You bypass all the bothersome layers and gatekeepers in-between.
Academicians have a fancy word for this: “disintermediation.” This is what the Internet has meant to the Dean campaign — the mainstream media has been effectively bypassed and/or removed as an intermediary between candidate and constituency.
It ain’t a new phenomenon. Rush Limbaugh figured this out decades ago when he popularized the current talk-radio format. What, after all, is talk-radio except a fusion of radio broadcast technology fused with the two-way channel called a “telephone.”
Dean’s people (many of them young and very much at home on the Web) are figuring out a new paradigm now. They are popularizing the use of blogs for campaign organizing and fund-raising.
Where right-wing constituencies have dominated talk-radio, left-wing constituencies have an early jump on dominating campaign blogs.
Win or lose, the Deaniacs have pushed political campaigns into the next phase. The 60’s paradigm of harnessing the advertising medium of television is now history, it’s old school.
Oddly enough, very few in the mainstream media (Frank Rich of the NYT is a notable exception) realize the enormity of what Dean’s supporters have achieved. Oh, I know — conventional wisdom says the Dean is the “techie candidate.” I’m not talking about that, because even that misses the real point (as evidenced by a recent poll debunking that silly idea).
Dean is not the “techie” candidate any more than FDR was the “radio” candidate or JFK was the “TV” candidate. Those candidates understood and exploited the technology to carry their message to their constituency. But they still had to have a message that called their constituency to action.






One response to “The virtual war room”

  1. Pete Avatar

    “Where right-wing constituencies have dominated talk-radio, left-wing constituencies have an early jump on dominating campaign blogs.”
    Gotta be careful with this one. The key words here are “early jump” and “campaign”. Reactionaries still far and away dominate “political blogs”; I think the only reason they haven’t translated that into a campaign blog is because their man is the incumbent.
    The critical distinction between strong Internet campaign and all others isn’t left / right; it’s entrenched power / populist. (Bush already has a ton of money and support from the powerful, why would he need $20 donations and peer-to-peer snail mail?)