My broham pointed me to an article about Dean's stumbling campaign. What I found more interesting was an article linked from it entitled, Exiting Deanspace by Clay Shirky. Although I disagree with some of his theses (read the comments on his entry), there are a couple observations that I think are worth looking at.
Prior to MeetUp, getting 300 people to turn out would have meant a huge and latent population of Dean supporters, but because MeetUp makes it easier to gather the faithful, it confused us into thinking that we were seeing an increase in Dean support, rather than a decrease in the hassle of organizing groups.
That's something I hadn't realized. Everyone was talking about Dean's wide support and pointed to MeetUp for evidence, but could it just have been that the few supporters were able to meet more easily? I can't say one way or another, but it's something to think about.
My one experience with MeetUp last week was positive. I was surprised to be the second youngest person there (an 11 year old politics buff also attended) considering the stereotypical Dean supporter demographic is under 30. I got a sense that although these were hardcore supporters, they'd pretty much written off Massachusetts as Kerry country but would still halfheartedly try in their spare time to get a few delegates. I could be wrong though.
Another Shirky observation:
In Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Campaign?, I suggested that Dean had accidentally created a movement instead of a campaign. I still believe that, and this is one of the things I think falls out from that. It's hard to understand, when you sense yourself to be one of Mead's thoughtful and committed people, that someone who doesn't even understand the issues can amble on down to the local elementary school and wipe out your vote, and its even harder to understand that the system is designed to work that way.
The important point is that Dean created a movement and stressed progressive change in the country perhaps more than he should've promoted himself. You can argue about whether it was a good strategy for a presidential campaign or not, but I think most would agree that the "movement" he started has invigorated the spineless Democrats. (we'll see what happens to the momentum if Kerry is nominated. my prediction: much of the momentum will fizzle)
Personally, I've always believed in voting for the candidate you most agree with rather than choosing the lesser of two evils. Kucinich had a great response when asked about his "electability" -- "I'm electable if people vote for me!" I think caving in to the Right time and time again with the dubious belief that it'll lead to more votes only proves the point that Democrats have no spine. When was the last time you heard of a Republican who agreed with gay marriage because he hoped to pick up a few more votes from the fabulous wing of the Republican party? (it might happen, who knows?)
So, if it comes down to Kerry vs. Bush, neither Bonesman is getting my vote.
Anyway, back to the Shirky article. What bugs me lately is the rush to explain "what went horribly wrong?". I think just the day after Iowa, even kos (big Dean supporter) was talking about how doomed Dean was and seemingly getting ready to jump on the Kerry/Edwards/Clark bandwagon. I would say that although the analysis is often on target, it points to the need for people to feel that they were right about something. In other words, those Dean campaign coroners are coming out and saying, "I was wrong for miscalculating Dean's frontrunner status and his candidacy in general, but, dear reader, I'm definitely correct in my analysis of everything he did wrong. told you so." Everyone wants to be the first one to explain why they were all wrong, and hence the first one to get something right.
Finally, I'll agree with Shirky about this moment:
The moment for me, and I think for many of us, when we realized that Dean was sunk was on Wednesday after New Hampshire, when the press reported that he’d spent most of his $45 million war chest already. The obvious question, “How did he think he could do the rest of the campaign on a few million dollars?” has an obvious answer: “He thought he’d raise more, when Iowa and New Hampshire anointed him frontrunner.”
When I heard of his financial problems, it was quite a downer. I contributed after Iowa, but after New Hampshire and since, it's hard to break open my wallet. I know a lot of supporters continue to fork over their dough, but I'm going to wait a little while to see if he hangs in there.