The Dean Campaign and the Fickle Press

Lots of prominent Net pundits — exhibit number one is here and =exhibit number two is here — have suggested that Big Media was responsible for doing U.S. Democratic candidate Howard Dean in. Well, before I say something about this, let's look at what another prominent Net pundit, Clay Shirky, has to say about this:

Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Camapign?
I'm getting the same cognitive dissonance listening to political handicappers explain Dean's dismal showing in Iowa that I used to get
listening to financial analysts try to explain dot com mania with things like P/E ratios and EBITDA. A stock's value is not set by those
things; it is set by buyer and seller agreeing on price. In ordinary markets, buyers and sellers use financial details to get to that
price, but sometimes, as with dot com stocks, the way prices get agreed on has nothing to do with finance.
In the same way, talking about Dean's third-place showing in terms of 'momentum' and 'character', the P/E and EBITDA of campaigns, may miss
the point. Dean did poorly because not enough people voted for him, and the usual explanations — potential voters changed their minds
because of his character or whatever — seem inadequate to explain the Iowa results. What I wonder is whether Dean has accidentally created a
movement (where what counts is believing) instead of a campaign (where what counts is voting.)
And (if that's true) I wonder if his use of social software helped create that problem . . .
To which I'd add the following:
Dean's people post-scream were quick to blame the media for his downfall.
Dean's people, pre-scream didn't need the media. Dean, pre-scream, was going to make the media irrelevant.
Dean's was the campaign which harnessed the Internet — so said Dean's ultra-cool Netizens as they laughed at how the Washington Media just didn't
get it. Heck, the Washington Media said so, too. This guy Dean knows the Internet, they said. He's raising millions of dollars on the Net and he's finally tapped into the political energy of young people…
And there's the rub …
Dean did tap into political energy of young people. They came from all over. They volunteered. They evangelized. They set up Web sites. They swarmed
non-believers. They put up posters. They manned the phones. And then they forgot to vote.
Dean is not the first and won't be the last politician to be abandoned by young voters.
Many pollsters and sociologists (and not a few journalists) have noted that people between the ages of 18 and 30 are more engaged than their
parents about globalization, the environment, capitalism and politics in general. They're more likely to go to a protest; to write political tracts;
and so on. But they don't vote.
Now there's Howard Dean. Left out hanging to dry not because of any media conspiracy or any Big Money, Big Politics gang. But because the very people
who went to the mat for him forget to do the most important thing you can do for any politician: They never went to the polls.
Look at the numbers in Iowa. Look at New Hampshire. Voters were older, it was rarely their first time voting in a primary, they'd been around the
block a few times. Where was the generation that Dean was supposed to deliver?
Where are the twentysomethings? And if they won't vote for Dean, who will they vote for?
I can't remember who said this, but it's been one of my favourite lines for more than 25 years: Bad governments are elected by good people who don't

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