Steal This Campaign

OK, we can’t steal it, but we can buy it. Cheap.

All the campaigns are talking about money, which is what politicians care about. We can put an end to that foolishness with a simple strategy: Buy a campaign by showering it with so many $50 contributions that they won’t have to worry about corporate contributions. Apparently the Republicans are raising $200 million from their closest friends based on a single cynical premise:

You can buy people’s votes

The back story on that cynical assumption is that they need to be bought because they never manifest themselves other than through big time TV marketing.

But someone said recently that, if a million people give $1,000, the Republican’s cynical assumptions go out the window.

In an email today, Lindsley Haisley opines:

The PBS thing on Martin Luther and the Reformation last night was
informative and relevant. The program explicitly made the connection
between the invention of printing and the Reformation on the one hand, and
on the other it likened print technology in the 16th century to the Internet
today, with the implication that eventually the Internet would be a vital
tool for social change.

Martin Luther’s personality, political skills, writing skills, and certainly
his personal courage were the major things he had going for him. The medium
of printing was simply a vehicle for magnifying this across Europe. I don’t
know what the literacy rate was in the 16th century, perhaps less than the
percentage of people with Internet access today, but Luther’s message was so
persuasive that he had overwhelming popular support wherever he went.

Corporate control of radio, TV and print news are much like Church
censorship of the written word in the 16th century. The Internet lets
people with a strong message get it out, but the message has to connect with people and get them fired up. The medium is not the message, as you point out, only a vehicle for it.

Lindsley and Mitch disagree with my assertion that this campaign isn’t about the Presidency, it’s about the Internet, because the basics of elections haven’t changed–get out the vote, raiseawareness with TV money, etc. My point, though, is that all those things are givens. Of course we need a message, a strong candidate, etc. However that’s like saying that the Battle of Agincourt was not about the long bow but Anglo Saxon fortitude, which is just silly. Of course it took great Anglo Saxon determination to trudge through the swamp all night just to show up. But, once there, the battle was about the long bow because it so overshadowed the other variables.

So I believe more strongly than ever that politics in 2004 and 2008 is about the Internet. More precisely, it’s about the uneven use of the Internet because some candidates are willing to open their campaigns to the voters and put up with the chaos of that feedback loop. People are responding to Dean because they are empowered to. Confident in that power, they’re less concerned about Dean’s specific positions, because they buy the inspiring tone and they think they’ll still be posting comments on his blog in 2005.


Everyone seems to agree that 6/30/03 will be written about for years since it was the first spontaneous expression of political will by self-organizing voters talking each other into caring more and donating more through the Moveable Type Comments function. That inspiring day caused the campaign to believe more strongly in its core aspiration: to somehow get nominated and then to give the Republicans a decent challenge. If 6/30 is as important as it seems, the campaign is making a mistake: It should re-calibrate its goals.

If the campaign doesn’t see the potential in the Internet, then the smart mob phenomenon just might. And a smart mob functions at an entirely different level than conventional hierarchical structures. Its force is nuclear and 20th century politics is just gunpowder.

Do the Math

Internet-equipped people caused $802,000 to be donated to Dean on 6/30/03. They did it by chatting each other up as the new totals were posted every half hour, and as the goal, depicted as a baseball bat, was increased as goal after goal was surmounted through the afternoon.

A freely associating mob is forming around the Dean campaign. Its communication tools will soon transcend the Campaign comment archives, by organizing its own tools. The campaign can’t stop them nor should it want to, though there are surely consultants who would just as soon all this went away. Too late.

Metcalfe’s Law says that this mob’s value and power will grow with the square of its population, attracting more people and volksmoney as an accretion disk in space sucks in matter from the systems around it. I believe this phenomenon is a social force too powerful to be stopped, and that historians will be more interested in 6/30/03 than 9/11/01.

The smart mob is not limited by the campaign’s preconceptions. At a gut level, this mob seems to be saying, “We’ve got plenty of money for this little problem. Shit, we give $4 billion a year to Apple Computer. Apple! We can easily spend a couple billion every four years to own our own government!”

Wah hoo! I just made my first ever campaign donation and I gave it to Dean. No candidate has ever gotten me excited enough to give money. 🙂 I could only afford $50 (rent time), but I intend to give more next month and I wanted to get something in before the end of the quarter.
Posted by Amanda at June 30, 2003 11:25 AM

Look at the wonderful people that are contributing people who really can’t afford to yet we all feel we can’t afford not to. We pinch our pennys and know we’ll make the sacrafice to get our point across. The only thing I say is don’t do what Mr Bush has done to our country don’t go into debt. We need to start with a new mind set. Everyone be solvent.
Posted by Stephanie at June 30, 2003 01:55 PM

I kept thinking I couldn’t afford to give anything (working mom supporting the family) and that I would just support Gov. Dean the best way I could. But reading everyone’s excitement has really inspired me and made me feel like it was important enough to contribute what I could today (payday) before my other payments went out – so I gave $15.00.
I want the message to be loud and clear that it’s every day regular Americans like me who are making this campaign work and who will put Gov. Dean in the White House. We really do count and we have the power together to change our country.
I’ll check back all day to see if we make the $7 million goal!
Posted by Cari at June 30, 2003 02:13 PM

Today was my 4th contribution ($100) and it came from the proceeds of a community yard sale that I participated in last Saturday. At the site of the sale I had a Howard Dean poster up and attached was my sign saying; “all proceeds go to Dean!”

Lots of folks asked about Howard Dean and I was able to explain his most significant positions.
Think “Yard Sale” as BOTH a source of dollars for De
an as well as out reach for getting others involved.
Posted by Elwin at June 30, 2003 02:14 PM

I contributed a small amount, but what I could afford, $25 (twice so far) and plan to contribute again today, because when Howard Dean emerges as the Democratic front runner, I will be proud to say that I was a part of the movement that put him there! I feel so empowered by this.

I can’t help it, I’ve approached family members and coworkers, and said, please just check out the website and then contribute today if you can.
Posted by Sharon at June 30, 2003 02:37 PM


Do you hear what I hear?

I hear a being waking up, wiring together its own dendrites and a little surprised at how easy it is to do what its forebears found challenging, like a Cro Magnon artist looking at a Neanderthal adornment.

I hear this being forming its mouth around the word landslide. As in, “What the fuck! Is that all we’re talking about? Sure, we can afford this, but why not buy a landslide, it’s way more fun than an even race! And why not buy a congress and that little Democratic party too. We pay a lot for government already. Why not just own it outright?

Of course all those little donors are giving money to buy their own votes. The ultimate bootstrap.

Yeah. I think this campaign is about the Internet.

10:36:19 AM    

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