The Dean campaign has brilliantly conveyed a message to its supporters, particularly its young ones, that their energy and enthusiasm can change the world. Some of this was by design, but much of it was a function of people looking for something, finding it in Dean, and then using tools like MeetUp and weblogs to organize themselves. The story of the bottom-up and edge-in style adopted by Dean’s staff has been told a thousand times, and it’s a good one.
But what if this style has also created a sense of entitlement or even inevitability about the change? What if communing with fellow believers has created the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from participation in a shared effort, but hasn’t created a sense of urgency or threat? What if Dean supporters believe that believing is enough, and what if the Dean campaign’s brilliant use of tools to gather the like-minded both online and off has fed that feeling?
I can attest to the fact that online groups can give a sense of self-satisfaction that can make you think more is being accomplished than is a reality. In my websandiego group, for example, often people have a sense that it’s so active and vibrant — the only place they would ever need to market is there on websandiego. The truth is that the vibrancy does not indicate that there’s a huge pool of enthusiastic consumers of XYZ web dev product. And it’s only a tiny slice of all the possible consumers of web dev products in San Diego.
The Presidential race is still early, and I’m looking forward to more competition as it shakes out. So far I’m glad to see Lieberman and Kucinich doing poorly — when I hear them speak, I get irritated.
I have been cautiously supportive of Dean so far, and despite these two early losses — there’s still more to come for thiss year’s election.