OK, the system is flexing, both visibly and not. Joe Trippi, the man who planted the seed, is out and Roy Neel will now try to grow it.
I assume they’ll let me retain my corner office (corner of a folding table in the volunteer bullpen), but I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks. This should make the Digital Democracy Teach-In on Feb. 9 even more interesting. For starters, Trippi should come as the patron saint (along with co-saint Joi)
People seem to be looking for insiders to comment on this, and Jim Moore said a lot about this transition just before the announcement, perhaps preparing us for it. Jim’s point is that the campaign has in many respects been about its momentum rather than its accomplishments.
Pretty candid words from a Dean insider who happens to blog.
There’s been a lot of back and forth about what to do and what Dean’s non-winning streak means. Today, Mitch posted some of the stuff he’s been sending to an ad hoc email group formed around Clay Shirky‘s Many 2 Many post on the possible failures of social software and my responses. It’s led Mitch to wonder where the Dean effort might go from here:
Mitch also recalls a discussion he and Doc and I held in Portland last summer (I’ve reversed these graphs for flow):
At our meeting in Portland I described my imminent Steal this Campaign post, a meme whose time may just now be ripe for the picking. I learned a long time ago to listen carefully whenever Mitch Ratcliffe speaks. But I’ve also learned that a trusted observer on the ground is worth a squadron full of conjecturers.
The real reason is far more simple. One thing that’s not obvious from out here is that the campaign is not just some half-assed pickup game. It’s run by real pros with decades of service, who share the values and mutual respect with the programmers and web designers.
The campaign grew by a half million registered users in about 5 months. Simultaneously, it was hiring staff and adding field offices in about 15 states. Simultaneously, it was creating an entirely new software space, with most of it built by volunteers or underpaid virtual volunteers working even harder than in startups, and building tools in response to a fast moving target market that had never existed before. Jim Moore is correct when he tells us (above) that The marketplace of political ideas is the fastest moving marketplace in which I have ever personally participated. Jim’s been a world-class consultant for a long time. My limited experience tracks his, and yes, I’ve stayed up all night with the troops to finish before the trade show opens.
Everyone knew the field staff was vital and needed primary resources. Everyone also knew that we should do whatever could be done to have a perfect user interface on the software side, but the resources had to go to the field first. Life is choices. Mitch continues:
Mitch repeats what many have said. “Take the time to listen; don’t ignore my ideas.”
News flash, gang, the campaign ignores my ideas too, and I’m there a week a month. (I’m not as smart as Mitch, but I have my moments.) It also ignores most staff ideas, from a better idea pool better than any you can imagine.
There is simply no time to listen and, like any company, most ideas from the team itself are not acted on, even if they’re discussed. I sincerely believe that Mitch does have much to offer, and I’m pleased to be writing a chapter in an O’Reilly book that Mitch and Jon Lebkowsky are putting together. But without putting his fanny in a seat up there, his ideas cannot be appreciated.
We Have Met the Campaign and It is Us
Joe Trippi, R.I.P., said it best: The campaign’s out here, not in there.
Mitch does have the experience, knowledge and skills to hatch a great plan, but he needs to tell us about it and ask us to help shape the plan, scope it, resource it and make it work. So do Clay and Dave and Micah Sifry and Joi and Ben and Doc and Weinberger and all of us. And me, with earlier commitment and better access and absolutely no real results so far.
The failure of “the campaign” to do all the right things is our collective failure out here to generate, vet and deploy a superior expression of the social software that Clay feels has hurt the Dean effort. We have far more resources and ingenuity than the campaign, and we’re free from the obligation to wait for permission, which will be even harder to receive, for a while, even if Roy Neel is the answer to everyone’s prayers.
And Logic, Not Or
If we pool our resources and find our own inspiration we can combine our strengths as a model for the future. We can invent the next America starting now, bolstered by how far the Dean campaign has come, not despairing over its interrupted crescendo. There’s nothing missing from the equation except a declaration we make, writ large so that King George will not need his spectacles to perceive it.
In doing so, we’d combine our strengths rather than piling on our mutual detractions.
The Dean turnaround is imminent, inevitable and overwhelming with simply our commitment to make it so. That commitment will succeed, staffed by so many smart, committed people. It’s time, money, brains and long hours. It’s deploying the capital we’ve sunk into the extra bedroom for these wonderful machines and immense copper pipes and glowing frames of shared enlightenment before us.
The will, commitment and follow-through are the kind of hero’s journey Joseph Campbell described, Luke’s force and Neo’s skills. It will take us as much courage as any Lord of any Ring in any age, even though it’s not physical. Trust me: what looks epic later is just a mental leap at the right moment.
The planet is watching and wondering why we’re waiting. The people at Davos last week can’t do what we can – just ask Joi and Jay and Loïc. And if we social software designers start, the world will never be the same.
Or we can just keep dissecting what went wrong.
Shakespeare said it better, but mythic warriors never had such a bold challenge with such an unforeseen outcome as we can work, simply by deciding to.