Blog Entry: The Perfect Storm


The Perfect Storm

How is this possible? 3 months ago Howard Dean was a political asterisk, today he has become such a threat to the frontrunner, and evidently, at least a few others, that they have taken every opportunity to twist his words, and distort his centrist record — in what has so obviously, to anyone who is watching, become a desperate attempt to stop him before he can’t be stopped.

They are trying to stop the Perfect Storm.

It is a storm that has never happened before — because it could not have happened before. The forces required to come into sync were not aligned, nor in some instances mature enough prior to this Presidential campaign. But the past few days may prove to be only the first winds of the Perfect Storm that will be required to defeat George Bush.

First the storm requires thousands and thousands, perhaps millions of Americans to become actively involved in determining the future course of our country. But how do these Americans find each other? How do they self-organize? How do they collaborate? How do they take action together? For the first time since we heard the words World Wide Web — the Internet makes this possible. In 1984 there was no net. How would Gary Hart had faired if there had been one? I worked for Vice President Mondale in 1984 and had the net existed in any great measure at that time, it is unlikely Mondale would have been the nominee. In 2000 there was John McCain — but still the net wasn’t mature enough yet to create the Perfect Storm of American politics. Tools like Meetup did not exist, blogs didn’t exist either — or at least not in the meaningful and powerful role they play today. And the McCain campaign has not planned for the event of cascading thousands joining it.

It took years to get here, years of millions signing up to their first ISP. Millions making their first Internet transaction. Millions using Ebay, or Amazon — and becoming comfortable with using their credit card online.

The other critical difference is the amazing tools that have emerged. The Blogging community has grown with readership in the millions, but the one question that still needed to be answered — was could the Internet be used by millions to take action off-line. Could people use the net to take action and mobilize beyond sending emails and even campaign contributions? Would they use the net to self-organize in a local community or around a common action? Moveon.org proved it so — over a million Americans through Moveon’s tools took common action for a common purpose in the last 6 months alone. There is no way to understate the importance of what Moveon and its members proved — that the net can be used to mobilize huge numbers of grassroots to take local action beyond their monitors — when showing up and being counted counts — and when shoe leather and phone calling, and letter writing is required. They also proved how fast it could all happen. And in 4 1/2 months Dean Meetups members have grown from 432 to over 24,000 and still growing.

So with the net and the tools in place to fuel the Perfect Storm of Presidential politics — there are a few other things that must exist to make it happen.

Among them a candidacy that is fearless, willing to take a stand, and able to inspire and energize others to do the same. The first winds of the storm are only starting to whip up — but it will take a candidate like Howard Dean to sustain the waves that will wash away George W. Bush.

The other thing that is needed — is a campaign organization that gets it — or at least tries to get it. One of the other reasons I think this has not happened before is that every political campaign I have ever been in is built on a top-down military structure — there is a general at the top of the campaign — and all orders flow down — with almost no interaction. This is a disaster. This kind of structure will suffocate the storm not fuel it. Campaigns abhor chaos — and to most campaigns built on the old top-down model — that is what the net represents — chaos. And the more the campaign tries to control the “chaos” the more it stiffles its growth. As someone who is at least trying to understand the right mix — I admit its hard to get it right. But I think the important thing is to provide the tools and some of the direction — stay in as constant communication as you can with the grassroots — two way/multi-way communication — and get the hell out of the way when a big wave is building on its own.

Which gets me back to the Perfect Storm. People ask how are you going to win the nomination, or beat George Bush when he is going to have all that money?

My answer would be — That never — until now — would there ever have been any hope of 1 million Americans contributing $100 each to take back their country and promote a common vision for the future of the nation. Maybe it will be 2 million who contribute $50. But the Internet makes that possible. Or maybe it will be 5 million Americans contributing $20. The tools, energy, leadership and the right candidate, are all in place to create the Perfect Storm of Presidential politics — where millions of Americans act together and organize their communities, their neighborhoods and their precincts. It is ironic I think that the Perfect Storm may indeed be made possible by the internet — but in the end the real storm it may create is the largest grassroots/election day get-out-the-vote — shoe leather/door knocking organization in the history of American politics.

I have said before that it sounds audacious. But it points to the need to redouble our efforst and ourselves as quickly as possible. And it also makes clear why we need fewer comments like those from From and Reed — and more oars in the water helping to make the waves grow stronger.

The interesting thing about John McCain is that some 40,000 Amerians signed up to join his campaign in the days immediately following his victory in New Hampshire. Today Howard Dean has over 50,000 who have signed up and joined the Dean for America campaign and we are 8 months away from the New Hampshire Primary. I don’t think some people in our party understand the implications of that fact — maybe it dawned on them for the first time yesterday — but I kind of doubt it.

So what can you do? Well I hate to sound like a broken record — but we need to do two things between now and June 30th. We have to keep growing the grassroots — we need you to keep spreading the word — forward emails and good stories to others who may not have heard of Howard Dean yet. We need the blogger community regardless of a blog’s support, opposition, or neutrality to at least point out to people what this campaign is trying to do. We need you to help us to keep building the local organizations through the list serves, and through Meetup, and the Dean Wireless Network. If you have a group or list/serve going — we need you to make sure we have the names here in Burlington so we can communicate directly with every Dean supporter. We need your help as part of the Dean Defense Forces. If you have high-speed Internet — sign up for our new Howard Dean TV service.

But I can not overstate the importance of the most important thing you can do right now. Help us raise as much money as possible by the June 30th filing deadline. Host a coffee, a house party, or raise $10 each from two or three of your friends. The Meetup Challenge has meant $300,000 to the campaign so far — the single biggest thing that could happen for our campaign would be that we reach the goal of $1million by June 30th. John Kerry had 14,000 contributors at the end of the last quarter, Howard Dean had 13,897 — it was the size of the contribution that made the difference — but our goal isn’t to raise the size of the contribution — its to double or triple the number of small contributions people can afford to make at this time by talking to our friends and neighbors. 50,000 $5 contributions for Howard Dean will mean much more than 125 $2000 for the frontrunner — because when you are building the perfect storm it is the number of people building the wave that matters — not the size of the check.

How can I ask for more help, when each of you has helped so much already. Just continue to do what you can….. the wind is getting stronger, and the waves are getting higher, the Perfect Storm is building…

Howard Dean is leading the charge to take our country back and you have the power to make it happen.

posted by Joe Trippi