Much has been made over the past few months of how political campaigns are more and more turning to electronic means of communication and organization to connect and interact with voters, usually pointing to the Howard Dean campaign as the leader and trendsetter for this new approach to politicking. But how did Dean’s online juggernaut get kicked into high gear? It all boils down to three essential people and two websites: Jerome Armstrong and Mathew Gross, of MyDD.com, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos.
How did it start? Well, with inadequate political coverage and two political junkies who wrote like sportswriters.
Armstrong and Kos were both deeply interested in ‘the conventional wisdon’, and how it was formed. What Armstrong liked about Dean was that Dean was a fighter, very early on. As he wrote, “This brings up another point, Dean is the only Democrat who is calling Bush to the mat on his budget-busting tax-cuts.” Armstrong and Kos believed that a candidate needed to stand for something, but, as self-confessed amateurs, held back from making claims about being able to do politics better than the party itself.
The 2002 midterms changed the rules. Because of the intense sports race tenor of the race – and Kos’s proclivity to muse and post on nearly every race – Kos regularly got upwards of 80 comments on each post. The Iraq war later kicked up Kos’s traffic to yet another level, but the midterms were the first hints that a special community was forming. Shortly after the electoral losses, the community started discussing a new slogan for the Democratic Party. The anger at the party that would spark Dean’s rise was evident. Kos mused dejectedly after the losses: “None of us are Democratic Party consultants (as far as I know), but ideas have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any. God knows whatever focus-group testing the Dems have conducted haven’t given us squat.”
It’s an excellent retrospective of just how all of the current blog-centric political campaigns got their start. Not with pundits sitting in back rooms scheming and grasping at straws, trying to come up with any desperate plan to get their candidate on the news and a household name — but with people who felt strongly that this country was in trouble, could do better, and needed a change, and decided that they had the ability and drive to do something about it.
It’s a wonderful thing we’ve gotten started here.
iTunes: “Kiss, The” by Cure, The from the album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987, 6:14).