Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Political Networking

Howard Dean
Howard, we hardly knew ye!

I have been reading a lot on social networks and their influence in business and politics, inspired by the rapid rise and unexpected fall of Howard Dean's candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

I can’t recommend this article on social networks, Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg, by Malcolm Gladwell, strongly enough. I read his book “The Tipping Point”, about social “epidemics” and viral marketing on my ten-hour plane ride to Beijing; it was full of interesting observations, such as the role of "connectors", "market mavens", "the law of 150" and so on.

Tom Steinberg’s analysis is the best I’ve read so far.

May’s Atlantic Monthly contains the inside story as seen by Paul Maslin, the campaign’s pollster, told in an essay and Q&A.

The campaign’s inspiration in new-economy thinking is most visible in Gary Wolf's piece in the December 2003 issue of Wired.

My take on this is that Dean was just a weak candidate, offering more of the same policies that won Mondale just two states twenty years ago and haven’t proved any more palatable to the electorate any time since. In the words of Richard Nixon, “The people have spoken. The bastards.”

Kerry seems to have captured the centre much more than any of the other candidates for the nomination. As for Bush, he seems to my mind to have managed to position himself as an intolerant authoritarian on social issues while spending money like a drunken sailor, the opposite of Republicans such as Reagan or Schwarzenegger.

It will be interesting to see what role all this new concept of loosely-organised, internet-based campaigning plays in the November contest. Key in this year’s tight race, the media says, will be the ability of both parties to mobilise foot solders to campaign and to vote. Noam Sheiber relates Joe Trippi's success with conventional and new methods in doing just that. Two months later, Sheiber had second throughts.

Interestingly, the New York Times magazine has written more recently on the centrally-directed "ground war" being run by the Republicans.

The hype was reminiscent of the excesses of the bubble and seemed to reinforce the narcissism and closed-mindedness inherent in any campaigning group in many new forms. Trippi and others spoke at the Digital Democracy Teach-In to present their first take.

The new McCain-Feingold rules on campaign finance could have unpredictable effects on the parties.

Pressure groups could easily take their symbosis with the media to its logical conclusion. Anyone for RMT-TV?

Peter 笔德