Jeff Jarvis is working on an Op-Ed on the Dean/Blog problem, which will be worth reading. Jeff’s already said that he figures Dean’s problem is that the blog effectively insulated him from the Iowa voters by coating his campaign with a thick gel of True Believers who didn’t represent the ordinary people who make electoral decisions, and I think that’s a big part of the problem.
But there’s another way of looking at things that may cast more light on the events leading up to the Great Meltdown on caucus day in Iowa. Instead of asking why Dean wasn’t able to use his super-fantastic organization to sway the voters in Iowa, we should be asking how such a marginal candidate was able to build such a large and dedicated following in the first place. After all, the “I have a scream” speech tells anyone who cares to pay attention that Dean doesn’t have the right stuff to be the leader of the free world: not the temperment, not the character, not the policies, and not the staff and advisers. But he’s raised more money than the other Democrats, even those like Kerry and Gephardt who’ve been in the game for long enough to have cultivated their own large followings and networks around the country.
Dean captivated the hearts of an army of naive and inexperienced followers who only know politics and Dean through the Internet and through their Internet-enabled MeetUps. Most of them joined the campaign not because of any specific admiration of Dean – there’s not much there to like – but because his campaign gave them to tools to get together, mix with each other, make friends, and swear allegiance to a Movement. Had they come to meet Dean in the old-fashioned face-to-face way, they would have noticed that his emotional affect is off, but the Internet hides emotion and allows us to substitute our wishes about a person’s emotional makeup over hard information about it.
So Dean captured well-meaning, naive people by hiding his character behind a screen, as so many scammers have done before him. Fortunately, the face-to-face nature of retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire provided the necessary corrective to the Internet’s blind spot.
And that was good for America, even if it was a tragedy for George W. Bush, the Emergent Democracy crowd, and Dean’s insiders.