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And the Women Come and Go…..

Apr
26
2005

The idea that the Internet could help create a viable third American political party isn’t exactly news. But, like Tom Friedman and the networked economy, it is now in the hands of a Big Media pundit so we must, must, must take it very, very seriously.
Particularly since this pundit – The Los Angeles Times’ Ron Brownstein – ends yesterday’s column with the suggestion that there could be a McCain/Bob Kerrey ticket.
Yikes! We gotta get our hands on whatever they’re smoking in the LATimes newsroom. Whatever it is, it’s gooooood.
It gets worse. Brownstein tossed the third-party idea around liberally quoting former Dean campaign guru Joe Trippi, whose been peddling this idea for about a year now, and New Democratic Network organizer Simon Rosenberg, who uses Brownstein’s column to utterly repudiate the middle-moderate strategy on which he founded and built NDN.
(SIDENOTE: Rosenberg’s been as many kinds of Democrats as there are donkeys. When NDN started, he was a Lieberman man and used to talk about stock options. Then he was a Dean supporter and yacked about the Internet. After that he wanted to run the Democratic National Committee and said Dean was divisive. Now, well, he’s uh, a hard core partisan? This is all driven by his financial backers; it can’t get more transparent. Can it?).


Sigh. I’m on the record as rolling my eyes when tech guys do politics. Now, let me roll my eyes as political guys do tech.
Some of what Trippi via Brownstein says is familiar: When third-parties like MoveOn control the fundraising, what’s left for the party to do? And when coalitions can form easily and quickly, what’s to keep a third party from coming along now that the “barrier to entry” is so low. Theoretically, nothing.
What’s missing in this equation? A sense of how a true network operates, that’s what. Political people like Trippi talk about the Internet as if it a were magic solution to meat-world problems like having lame candidates, no bench of local candidates to come up through the ranks except Sen. Hilary Clinton, and a dependency on corporate funding sources as deep and as compromising as the Republicans. But I digress.
Brownstein lets Trippi and Rosenberg talk about a network as if it could be owned by someone or something (who do you think they have in mind?). It can’t. And that’s going to be the biggest change in U.S. politics over the coming years. At least Kevin Drum has the right end of the stick on this one and it’s no coincidence that he’s spent a little time with computer people. Rosenberg and Trippi – the one-eyed men who have actually driven up and down Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road — are the lead horses in this mug’s game. They’ve got a bunch of people who don’t know and who don’t understand networks, their power and their boomerang potential, thinking that NDN, MoveOn and the Dean campaign were networked because they had email lists, blogs and web sites.
Baloney. I’ll tell you who was networked. The Republicans. They still are, too.
If you got on-line at http://www.GeorgeWBush.com (today, the link takes you here, they got your phone number, your email and your address and gave it to their field folks who called you up and asked you for your time or your money or both. And they did it fast. Before you had time to forget. What’s worse? The Republicans told everybody – even Democrats – what they were doing. I sat in two public conferences last year where Ralph Reed told Joe Trippi – twice — what they were doing and how it was going to work. Trippi just sat there like a stone.
The Republicans had a network, that’s one good reason why they won. Anything else is just an excuse.
But Brownstein ends the column with a very, very good point, one that’s increasingly obvious to me as I watch the moderate Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate stiffen their backs and – finally — call an unethical jerk a jerk. He says, correctly, that disgust with hardball partisanship – MoveOn on the left, Swift boats on the right — might well push people to a third party, that moderate high ground where things get done and the yelling is only for a good cause.
This gets at some of what’s powering that group – it’s a movement, not a political party – I call Progressive libertarians. These folks aren’t just business-minded and tech-savvy. They also look long and hard at the bottom line, for the most efficient and effective way to do things. And they are not loyal. Through the ‘net, they could take to coalition politics with an enthusiasm we haven’t seen in this country, really, since before the Civil War.
The Internet will give voters a kind of flexibility they don’t feel they have right now. A newly politicized middle – interest in politics is a kind of background noise that everyone sort of pays attention to these days – will shop between parties as they see sit. Why? For the same reason they can have Amazon.com send them books. Because they can. And it’s easy.
They’ll use the Internet to suit their own – not the party’s purposes. They’re going to go to the candidates they want, the candidates won’t have to come to them. Will it create a third party? Probably not. Coalitions will spring up, fall back, come to life, die out, as voters feel they’re useful and necessary. And that, my political friends, is a network. One with a life – indeed a purpose – of its own that the user selects and manages for themselves by themselves.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:28 AM | Permalink

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