Doc Searls has an absolutely beautiful eulogy for the Dean campaign. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean it that way, but that’s what it feels like. Through that post, I made my way over to The Cluetrain Manifesto, and was blown away. I get it now. I get why I was so enamored with the Dean organization. It wasn’t the candidate. It was the power of the people contributing to the organization. It was the way the campaign worked as a hub for ordinary people to make a difference. I was floored by the relatively small size of the average donation when compared to Bush’s enormous money-making machine. The campaign, and the internet side of it is a tiny glimpse of what’s possible. It is possible to take the monied corporations and special interests out of the game and win with ordinary people. I’m just not sure it’s possible for Howard Dean. If Dean doesn’t win, we should all thank him, Joe Trippi, and everyone who worked on the campaign for giving us a vision of the possibility that one day, it really will be a government of, for and by the people.
The Dean campaign, and to some extent the Clark campaign, have shown that you can express your opinions honestly in politics without wrapping it in plausible deniability and empty rhetoric. The shock to the system has been administered, and the things the press calls “gaffes” are actually a candidate speaking his mind, not the specious platitudes of some faceless collection of writers and spin merchants. I think Dean’s gotten away from that somewhat, and it’s hurting him. Like Cluetrain says about conversation “Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. “. Dean and Clark have both brought the human voice back to politics. Kerry and Edwards, to their credit, both realized this, and their campaigns have benefitted from it. Edwards, especially, has leaped on it, and done an outstanding job of jettisoning the politician’s vocabulary and speaking as himself. I watched a rally of his the other day, and was amazed at how natural he seemed compared to seeing him in the studio on The Daily Show last year.
Whatever happens with the Democratic nomination, I hope that the glimpses we’ve seen will be embraced. We should demand more honesty, more straight talk, more genuine opinion, from our candidates. Let’s not let them off with their prepared remarks. Make them squirm. If that had happened in 2000, I doubt we’d have the president we have today. I hope that the presidential debates this time don’t give the candidates the questions beforehand. The answers should be longer, and allow for a rebuttal. I really want to know what a candidate thinks, and in 2000, we didn’t get that. Hopefully, in 2004, we will.