Jim Moore gives us a great sense of what’s important about people power by sharing his experience with insider politics:
I saw this problem up close and personally in the Gore campaign. I remember being at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, and having the sinking sense that the Gore campaign was moving farther and farther away from connecting with the exciting, vibrant, fresh ideas and people and groups making up the new American polis. I was not alone. Many others at the convention had a similar sense. But we were not able to access, much less influence, the small group of pros who had encircled Al Gore. These pros were exquisitely attuned to the traditional interest groups who make up the old Democratic demand environment. I remember voicing this concern personally at the convention to a friend who is a pillar of the party. He replied in a very nice way, “Jim, campaigns are best left to the pros.”
Well, I don’t think campaigns are best left to pros if those pros can’t understand and accept the reality of the new landscape, and can’t related to the new people, processes and issues raised by the new politics. More importantly, we need to encourage the evolution of a new political landscape in America, freed of the narrow interests that tend to define politics of both left and right. We need to use the web to bring together large groups, focused on large issues, who can counterbalance the small, well-funded and more self-centered players who currently hold the stage. I believe this is what the blogosphere is capable of helping to enable, on both left and right. This is what I personally want to work toward.
When people raise their voice in concert, it’s poetry, as Walt Whitman taught us, transcending the prosaic, petty messages of the “pros” in any field. The galvanizing effect of the Internet is just now kicking in, having completed its mandatory 10-30 year gestation described by Paul Saffo (we over-hype new tech in the short run and underestimate it over the long haul). The Internet encourages, even requires the collective, human voice of we the people to drown out the self-obsessed mechanical trivia of the pros, whether they’re navel-gazing on Madison or Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, is there any discernible difference between marketing soap, politicians or pre-emptive war? Andrew Card doesn’t think so.
Jim is writing about the remarkably visible struggles in the Clark campaign and escalates the issue to where it belongs: Closed-source campaigns can’t compete with open source movements.
The highest hope for the emerging role of the blogoshere in politics is that we can increase the concentrated power, activation and activation speed of citizen groups with broader, higher minded interests. The web allows millions of people to come together easily and inexpensively. Web discourse on blogs enables the co-evolution of facts and arguments that results in thousands of people becoming more aware of the stakes in any given political decision, and thus more activated to try to be involved. And the web enables swarms to come together in minutes rather than days. Our hope is to improve the adaptability and openness of our democracy.
The Clark case is not just a story about a group of Clinton and Gore advisors who are consolidating power over a campaign. My sense is that the professionals who have taken over are attuned to the former demand environment, but are not appreciating how much the new demand environment differs from the old. They are attuned to traditional Democratic interest and donor groups and power brokers, but are missing out on the new, more broadly constituted groups that are swarming across the blogosphere. The professionals running the Clark campaign do not understand the new emerging topology of Democratic politics in America. Most profoundly, they do not understand that the leadership of our nation requires that candidates help reshape the topology of politics—and that the Dean campaign is deeply involved in that process.
Further, the Dean campaign enjoys a classic “first mover” advantage. They are offering the one thing that every campaign needs to offer, visibility into the campaign and its staff, a product that bears up under scrutiny and is more comforting with use, and a sense of community that forms a kind of gravity well attracting more participants. People sense that a campaign so open and responsive is likely to operate a similarly open and approachable White House, a kind of Jacksonian reformation, without the korn likker. They know what the pros don’t, it’s about the governance, stupid!
Where Google offers the search results you’ve always wanted, the Dean folks have built the responsiveness people never thought was possible. It’s the Google of Presidential campaigns, so it’s hard for a later entrant to get traction, and impossible unless they embrace the new algorithms.