As Net.Gain was the manual for Ancestry.com/MyFamily.com to build the largest genealogy community in the world, with as many as 15 million unique monthly visitors to its various web sites, then I see The Revolution Will Not Be Televised as the primary guidebook for our iCount.com, our new political community web service which is today only in its earliest stages, but which already has thousands of registered users who want to make their vote count every day of every year, and not just once every 2-4 years during an election cycle.
Joe’s been able to meet with many of you over the past few weeks as he made his way across the country. For those of you who weren’t able to make it to one of the book signings in DC, Chicago, Columbus, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, LA or elsewhere, what are your thoughts on the book? Good or bad? Right or wrong?
As you know, the Dean campaign was more about its supporters than anything else–in the same way, this is your book. We’re working on setting up a system where you can all add your own story to the book’s appendix. In the meantime, why not give us your take on what Joe has to say? Leave a comment below, post a review on Amazon, or join the discussion on Slashdot. The important thing is to keep a real dialogue going. Fire away.
An interview with Joe is currently headlining the online edition of Mother Jones Magazine. Read it here.
When I started writing “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” less than six months ago, the conventional wisdom (who are those guys, anyway?) was that George Bush would raise over $200 million for his reelection campaign, while John Kerry would be lucky to break $100 million before the Democratic convention opened in Boston on July 26th.
As you’ll read in the introduction to the book that follows, it was Howard Dean, Kerry’s vanquished rival, who had broken all previous fundraising records for a Democratic presidential campaign, including a then-staggering $15.8 million raised in the last quarter of 2003— half of that on the Internet. At the same time, Kerry’s fundraising, which relied heavily on major donors who could write $2,000 checks, was dead in the water. In December of 2003, nobody wanted to write a big check to a guy that the media had predicted was certain to lose in Iowa and New Hampshire and therefore would never be president.
Not for the first time in his political career, people had underestimated John Kerry’s resilience. In a move which proved to me that he had the strength and determination to go all the way, Kerry ignored his own obituary and took out a $6 million mortgage on his home in Boston. He bet on himself when no one else would.
The rest, as they say, is history.
But here’s where it gets interesting: In each of the four months since he clinched the nomination, Kerry has raised more than $30 million, more than doubling the Dean campaign’s record take last December. Still more amazing, the Kerry campaign even eclipsed some of the fundraising records of the Bush campaign, something that was previously unthinkable for any Democrat to achieve.
The Kerry campaign has taken in more than $150 million this year, for a total of $182 million announced last week. $44 million of that was contributed online in just the last three months. The Bush campaign did reach its goal, reporting $216 million raised to date.
What those numbers reveal, aside from the sad truth that fundraising drives presidential campaigns as surely as box office receipts drive movie-making (Bush-Cheney ’04 = Spiderman 2), is that the playing field between Democrats and Republicans has been all but leveled. Mary Beth Cahill, John Kerry’s campaign manager, credits it to “the strength of the small donor.”
Remarkably, the average donation to the Kerry campaign online in May was $108, down dramatically from the first three months of the year where his average gift was a whopping $956.
Is this a revolution? You bet. And like the Boston Tea Party that launched a democratic revolt more than two centuries ago, it started small— in this case it began sixteen months ago with 432 supporters of Howard Dean each pledging to find one more person to contribute whatever they could to his nascent campaign. Nine months later, the Dean campaign had 650,000 supporters and had raised more than $50 million, in average contributions of $77. More important, when the time came to decide whether Howard Dean should forego public financing— and the restrictive fundraising and spending limits that go with it— those same small donors voted overwhelmingly in an online referendum to opt-out of the system.
What few remember now was that it was that decision—the first time a presidential campaign ever put its strategy to an online vote—that not only triggered Dean’s action, but led to John Kerry’s decision to opt-out of public financing as well. I am convinced that when the story of the 2004 election is written, that moment will be seen as the turning point of the entire campaign. By freeing himself from the restrictions of public funding, John Kerry put his trust in the people to sustain his campaign. What’s truly revolutionary is not merely that Kerry’s faith in his supporters was rewarded by their financial support, but that any candidate would let his campaign’s fundamental strategy be dictated, even indirectly, by a online plebescite.
John Kerry has adapted quickly to the possibilities and responsibilities of building an Internet constituency. Four years ago (or even four months ago) who would have predicted that the vice presidential announcement, the single most important decision a nominee can make, would be revealed first not to party leaders and big donors, but to the one million grassroots activists supporting him through johnkerry.com – the new political “bosses” who Kerry describes as “the people who’ve helped carry this campaign…and [who will] be the first to know what my decision is.”
When the Dean campaign, eighteen months ago, set as its fundraising goal the then-unimaginable sum of raising $200 million by this July, you could almost hear the laughter reverberating through press rooms across the nation. Karl Rove was telling people that he was rooting for Dean to be the nominee, so certain was he that this was the impossible dream of a bunch of grassroots idealists. Well, he was wrong.
Here’s what I predict: in the 24 days remaining before the last day of the Democratic Convention, when Kerry formally accepts the nomination and the lump sum payment which goes to the nominee (and precludes him from further fundraising), he will realize the fanatastic goal set by the Dean campaign by catching and exceeding George Bush’s total of $216 million (money raised largely through the old paradigm of $2,000 checks bundled together by “Rangers” and “Pioneers.”) And he’ll do it with average contributions that are less than $100 each. Which means that the stronger Kerry gets financially, the bigger his base of support will become – and vice-versa.
This is what I mean by a revolution. It will continue to unfold quietly, without a shot ever being fired. And because, as the title “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” plainly suggests, there won’t be pictures of this revolution that can be easily shown on television, I promise you that I’ll do the best I can to give you regular reports from the virtual front lines, both on MSNBC and right here on msnbc.com.
Crossposted from MSNBC.com.
Eighteen months ago the Dean for America campaign set out not just to change presidents, but also to change politics by returning power to the grassroots.
The campaign back then had 432 known supporters nationwide and about $100,000 in cash-on-hand. On that day back in January of 2003 Dean for America set an audacious goal of upsetting Karl Rove’s apple cart by empowering and encouraging the grassroots to catch George Bush and his pioneers and rangers – and match the Bush campaign goal of raising $200 million dollars.
Dean for America called it the $100 dollar revolution.
Back then everyone laughed and thought catching Bush and eliminating what would at least be a $100 million money advantage for the Rove Warriors would be impossible. They dismissed the potential of the grassroots as a pitiful David against the likes of the Bush Goliaths who could bundle $2,000 checks in unlimitedamounts.
But the grassroots surprised everyone, first by voting to give the green light to the Dean campaign to opt out of public financing in order to make the Democratic Party competitive with the Bush juggernaut.
Then the campaign of John Kerry, to its credit, took that green light as its own signal to opt out as well – something Rove never counted on.
The Kerry campaign placed its trust in the hands of its supporters and they have rallied and raised $182 million dollars. And the Kerry campaign’s average online contribution is now $108.
We can reach that $200 million goal and catch George Bush. The Kerry campaign has made it possible.
We can finish what was started so many months ago. Grassroots Americans have risen to the challenge, and the Kerry campaign is giving us the real opportunity to change presidents while, at the same time, changing the power center of our politics and returning it to the people.
The month of July is the month we will catch George Bush. Imagine the power of hundreds of thousands of citizens catching 631 wealthy “Pioneers” and “Rangers”. While Bush’s bundlers represent what Thomas Jefferson feared the most, ,a government dedicated to its own “perpetuation of wealth and power,” we can prove that the real power belongs to the people in the form of bottom-up participatory democracy.
With your help, the unfair playing field that Karl Rove counted on will finally be completely leveled. John Kerry will accept the nomination on the shoulders of grassroots Americans who will have truly done the impossible. Let’s catch George Bush and make it so.
Go to http://www.catchbush.com
July is the month where the grassroots proves its power.
Joe’s book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, will be released just after the birthday of our revolution, on July 6th. Learn in fascinating detail the inner workings of the Howard Dean Presidential Campaign, and learn how you can make a difference before this upcoming election, when we send George Bush back to his Ranch in Crawford, Texas. Order it now, and get ready for the revolution!