Monday, November 15, 2004

Exiting Deanspace, Entering Extreme Democracy

For anyone interested to know more about Howard Dean's presidential campaign (the inspiration of my recent posts), I recommend the blog eXtreme democracy, edited by Mitch Ratcliffe and Jon Lebkowsky. They define extreme democracy as "a political philosophy of the information era that puts people in charge of the entire political process. It suggests a deliberative process that places total confidence in the people, opening the policy-making process to many centers of power through deeply networked coalitions that can be organized around local, national and international issues."

"Extreme democracy" seems to be more an on-line book and less a living blog. One of its "recent" posts (from a month ago) is Exiting Deanspace, written by Clay Shirky who originally posted on Many2Many way back on Feb 3, 2004. The article reads like a rebuttal to Joe Trippi. Shirky concludes:

The easy thing to explain is why Dean lost – the voters didn’t like him. The hard thing to explain is why we (and why Dean himself) thought he’d win, and easily at that. The bubble of belief, which collapsed so quickly and so completely, was inflated by tools that made formerly hard things easy, tricking us into thinking that getting votes had become easy as well — we were all in Deanspace for a while there.

It was also inflated by our desire to see someone get it right, a fact that made us misunderstand the facts on the ground – we suffered the same temptations as the campaign workers to regard our fellow citizens as “definite supporters”, even when we ourselves were supporting a movement rather than a campaign.

It’s been a shock, but it doesn’t have to be a fatal one. Lowering coordination costs and making it easier for citizens to create media and distributing fundraising to the masses are all good things. This year, however, to the surprise of many of us, pasting those things on to relatively traditional campaigns has worked better than the Dean campaign’s organic strategy did. The biggest difficulty for whatever version of next time comes around will be remembering not to believe our own PR.

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