Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"I can hear 'em callin' hogs... I can sniff the fragrant whiff..."

Last year, while stranded in St. Louis for several hours, I learned that the airport there has a wonderful used book store. Yesterday, while stranded in Philadelphia, I learned that the airport has an excellent wine bar. (The food was just OK, but the candlelit tables were also a welcome break from Hudson News and food court chaos.)

Also, airport art is brilliant after three glasses of wine! (Seriously, Philly had little shapes of birds and planes --but no Superman-- arranged in flocks that made up bigger birds and planes! I even stopped to examine the tiny figures. And put my nose up to the glass box...)

So I have no idea if it was the three glasses of wine or the book itself, but I was tearing up while reading parts of Joe Trippi's memoir of the Howard Dean campaign in '04. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything was really inspiring. Actually, I started reading it on the plane from Boston before getting stranded in Philly, so it wasn't just the wine and candlelight.

Of course, I may be a bit partial because while reading the descriptions of the 1200 audience members at Seattle's Town Hall in the spring of '03, the 15,000 in downtown Seattle that summer, the hundreds of thousands of repeated small-time contributors, and house party organizers, I kept thinking "Awww... I was there! That was me!" Trippi provides a riveting account of how the Dean campaign snowballed from a tiny backwoods Vermont office into the nation's first --and arguable only-- internet-supported presidential bid, the first in fact to utilize blogs. (The myth is that the campaign was only internet-based, but it wasn't.)

(Because I really know how to pick 'em in the primaries... I was a Bradley fan in '00, the only other presidential cycle where I've been eligible to vote. I think I've mentioned before, I love primaries. In the spirit of Thursday's approaching feast, the Dem primaries are like huge Thanksgiving family dinners where everyone has to negotiate who will host, who will carve the turkey, and who has to take the wine away from Uncles Sharpton and Kucinich...)

So perhaps it's appropos that, four years after I made my first political contribution to a candidate (I'd previously refused, donating only to ballot initiatives or the anti campaigns), I'm studying the influence of technology in mobilizing young voters. And guess what, there are still limited resources, almost no academic research in the area, and new applications are being poo-pooed by traditional politicos, who wonder how and why Stephen Colbert can be more popular than "real" Democrats. We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

At any rate, Trippi's book is great. Like any memoir, you read it with a grain of salt because who isn't biased when it comes to writing about themselves? But Trippi actually manages to get beyond the issue of how he was involved with the campaign -- he keeps calling for a paradigm shift in campaign strategizing, for a recognition that voters will actually respond to participatory democracy, for a realization that politics and technology are not mutually exclusive. And he keeps emphasizing the importance of young voters. In any description of the Dean campaign, Trippi repeatedly emphasizes it was decentralized and the vague online community "out there" were the ones coming up with ideas and innovations-- and he relates it to similar trends in the consumer market, like Google and Linux and some other instances where the bottom-up nature of computer culture had proven wildly successful.

I also got a second-hand campaign high while reading the pre-Dean autobiography parts. The guy worked on tons of campaigns.

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