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wTuesday, January 20, 2004



since you left me, I've moved around
countdown to New Hampshire: 8 days

Well, Dean blew it. Not by coming in third in Iowa, mind you, but by sounding like a professional wrestler when he gave his post-caucus speech, face beet red, and not using a second of his national TV time to talk about issues. Listen to the weird scream/whinney at the end....not exactly presidential, you know?

Late Edit: already, there is a "dean remix." (via stereogum)

My gut tells me Kerry don't have what it takes, but watch Clark and Edwards....

speaking of which: that's exactly what I plan on doing. A while back I decided to go to new hampshire. and the time has come to start the countdown and read up and write up and find my artic gear and my hip flask and get it all together. and as a sort of countdown to the trip I'm going to introduce/critique all of my companions on the trip, who all, incidentally, write blog-type-things, and there are three of them, and I'll skip a day or two, and that'll get us to friday, when I leave for DC to meet up with them and head to points cold and north. so watch for that here.

and LA people: Myself and my friend Alejandro are spinning FOR FREE!!!! every tuesday night at THE ECHO at 1822 Sunset Blvd. so come out and have a drink and dance or don't but just come, it's a good time and it's free so it's not like we owe you anything or you owe us anything. laidback, neighborhood, etc. 9pm-1am or so. drink specials, etc. 213-268-5685 for more info.

but back to NH. I promised a piece I wrote about dean and springsteen, and here it is, largely unedited or put together because between friends in town and watching football and doing grad school/law school apps. and etc, I haven't gotten around to fixing it up. and it already looks dated. but here it is, with typos and holes and notes to myself:

Jan 4th, JFK Airport, Terminal 6, Gate 12—

I’m sitting, waiting for my plane home to board, reading and listening to an mp3 player. The opening piano chords of “Thunder Road” play, and I feel that familiar stomach tug I remember from adolescence, thinking of girls and the moments right before kissing them.
This gut punch emotion is not just limited to love or music. It can be evoked by almost anything, even politics, and it is what I sense I might find in the legions of Dean supporters I’ll encounter when I go to New Hampshire for the Democratic Primary.
In It Ain’t No Sin to be Glad You’re Alive, the book I read as I wait for the plane, Eric Alterman describes the arrival of Bruce Springsteen, especially the release of Born to Run, as, in his eyes, the arrival of a savior leading the poor downtrodden masses of disenchanted youth back into the home courts of the great figures of rock music. Bruce, he says, channeled the pure spirit of rock and roll.
The stage he sets, loosely: the idealism of the late 60’s, and the powerful rock and roll that had been a part of that time and that idealism, had dissolved into and economic and spiritual depression by the mid 70s. Springsteen arrived and, with Born to Run, kicked down the gates that led to the promised land, a 6-string Moses leading millions of teenagers out of the bondage of that time and place.
I think I recognize in the online scribbling of some Deanies the same wild-eyes fervor I encounter in Alterman’s book.
Before I get any deeper into all this, though, I want to take stock of What I Know to Be True:

1. There is something unique going on in and around the Dean campaign, something heretofore unseen in American politics.
2. Whatever is happening (WIH from here on out) has something to do with the Internet.

There are a few other ideas I’d like to file under What I Believe to Be True:

1. WIH has little or nothing to do with Dean’s policies which, when considered as a whole, are not significantly different from those of the other Democratic candidates. Although the anti-war stance that Dean took early on the campaign brought him into the public eye, there are other anti war candidates who have received nowhere near the levels of support Dean has enjoyed. The same can be said of other policy points. I find it hard to believe that Dean’s often muddled policy pronouncements are behind his front-runner status.
2. WIH has little to do with Howard Dean himself, his history or his manner. Although he certainly has more charisma than Kerry or Leiberman, he clearly lacks the entrancing manner of Bill Clinton or W’s affable friendliness (the “aw-shucks” thing).

Also useful to consider before really examining WIH are a couple Possible Other Explanations for Dean’s ascendancy:

1. He’s a governor. This fact, statistically at least, makes him among the most electable of the 9 candidates. Senators and Representatives are much less likely to hold the office of President in recent years. Before JFK, the last member of Congress to be elected to the Presidency was Harding [check, but it was back at the beginning of the 20th century even if it wasn’t harding.] G. W. Bush, Clinton, Regan, Carter, were all governors. Vice Presidents often win the office frequently, but there are none running in this race.
2. He’s anti war. So are others, though. And I believe that WIH was coming into being, if not fully formed, before Iraq became an issue.

But what is WIH? Dean Campaign Manager Joe Trippi’s early use of meetup.com [explain] created independent, autonomous hubs of political activity under the common banner of Dean’s campaign. These hubs, empowered and organized by modern technology instead of organizational man-hours, could operate and recruit independent of not just orders from headquarters, but also with less financial support [why?]. A lean, organic political and social animal is born.
The attraction of the sort of social network the Dean campaign is providing through the meetups [and …] [alt: social network such a campaign provides][to whom?], distinct from any interests particular to the candidate, is undeniable. The recession of the last few years is nowhere near as deep as that of the early 70’s, but it is real. Young idealists are unemployed and underemployed, disheartened by the decay of the “roaring 90’s” into what they see as unpunished corporate treachery, an unending and (linquistically, at least) unendable state of war, etc…
[The republicans and Democrats are forced by economic necessity to cater to the corporate or organized interests that fund increasingly expensive campaigns. ]
[[useless and unsupported as is]If Dean is Springsteen, or “Born to Run,” the other candidates might have analogs in songs of the day: Kerry (Styx’s “Mr. Roboto”), Leiberman (The Eagles’ “Hotel California”), Sharpton (Ray Stevens’ “The Streak”), Clark (Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” [sounds like a Springsteen song, at least])
In these meetups for dean the lost or looking are finding something of value: each other. Every outcast in the country is simultaneously meeting by the dumpster behind school for a cigarette and planning session. Then they call their friends, who show up and find, at a Dean meetup, the same sense of belonging and purpose that earlier generations found in the ________ _______ of their first punk rock show, or, like Alterman, in Born to Run. They shiver and close their eyes. They smile and then open their eyes and then get to work. That lean, organic political animal grows larger and stronger than even it imagined. The rest of the political world is dumbfounded, disbelieving, and resentful (the jocks just hate it when the weirdoes, stoners, and longhairs have any fun.
This is where I think we are, a few weeks out of New Hampshire. The growth of Dean’s political animal as a cousin to the beast that is rock music is merely a hunch, my best guess as to WIH. I have never been to a Dean meetup, as I write this, but I’ll try to go to one before the trip to NH to see if I can confirm any part of the hunch.

A bit deeper explanation of the nuts and bolts, the whys and hows of WIH, as I see it.

Fundraising:
The meetups and word of mouth attract the masses to the candidate, and the blog and other intensely interactive elements attract visitors to the web site, not just once or twice to read policy papers but again and again, to read and reply to the continuous (alternate) narrative and discussion that occurs on the blog. Just a few clicks later, they’ve given dean a couple bucks. An hour or so later the bat (it fills like a thermometer as donations are received) gets fuller. Expectations, eventually, are surpassed. This is, again, about a sense of belonging, about screaming the chorus with a hundred or a thousand or tens of thousands, being a part of the beast that shook the walls, all without leaving the desk.

Structure: The structure of autonomous, individual cells mimics the architecture od the internet, which was built to be robust to point of near indestructibility. The network built around “people powered howard” so differs from the architecture of most candidate’s support that gaffes or misstatements or policy flip flops don’t have as much of an effect on dean as they would on others because, at the root of it, that’s not what his campaign is about. It’s barely about dean himself. It’s about the rest of the people supporting him. He’s a meta-candidate.
Find in springseen the uncelebrity, the man who spent an off night on tour at the home of a fan who asked him outside a movie theatre about the burdens of fame, the man who left that meeting feeling that he was the luckier of the two men to have had that opportunity. Find in Dean’s organization the same down to earth manner, especially in the earlier months of the campaign, when he and his staffers would stay in the homes of supporters while on the campaign trail.
Dean has shown in recent days a smugness obviously absent in his days as underdog. Alterman notes Springsteen’s habit of “subverting” audience applause by raising his guitar above his head, focusing the crowd’s reverence on it, not him. He was merely the conduit for the holy spirit of rock and roll. The only person who can keep the Dean campaign from achieving all it could may be Dean himself. The catch phrases, famously “you have the power” to close stump speeches, still jump from his lips, but he must remember that, more than any other candidate, and precisely because of the things that have made him the presumptive nominee, this is not about him. He must walk the people powered walk.

posted by Derek at 12:04 AM 0 comments