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March 21, 2006

Defining Disintermediation Down

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

When I first read Ezra's Gore piece, my thoughts were something like, "When Gore finally succeeds with this disintermediation stuff, I'll probably have enough money to buy a holographic projector so I can receive 3D pods in my space station!" But now that I've seen his latest post, disintermediation looks a lot more run-of-the-mill than it did before. Cutting out the middleman between candidates and swing voters is a herculean task. Cutting out the middleman between candidates and activists is a relatively easy one that everybody is doing.

The following things strike me as obvious: The internet makes it possible for people to be heard by millions of others who are interested in hearing them, at a very low cost. Putting your candidate's most exciting speeches up on the internet so activists can see them is a great idea. When you take a popular position on an issue and expend some effort to push it, email your supporters telling them what you're up to. And campaigns generally are doing these things.

Ezra talks about Howard Dean in the post below, and doesn't mention the central factor in the Dean story: Iraq. If you have a candidate who passionately argues for an unpopular position early in the primaries while others oppose it, and that position becomes a strongly held majority view among the party base, the candidate becomes a frontrunner. I don't know how much explanatory work the internet stuff does here. The old media was perfectly happy to play up the fight between the anti-war outsider and the pro-war establishment. And while the new media portrayed Dean's views much more accurately than the old (most people are still astonished when you mention that he's a big budget-balancing guy) I'd be pretty surprised to see anyone argue that the use of blogs to recruit fiscal conservatives played a big role in his rise.

March 21, 2006 in Media | Permalink

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Ezra talks about Howard Dean in the post below, and doesn't mention the central factor in the Dean story: Iraq. If you have a candidate who passionately argues for an unpopular position early in the primaries while others oppose it, and that position becomes a strongly held majority view among the party base, the candidate becomes a frontrunner.

And yet (1) everyone's pretty much assuming Feingold gets a huge boost because he's doing the exact thing - tackling the PATRIOT Act and the NSA program while his prospective rivals are too scared to openly oppose them, (2) both of these programs look to be only getting less popular with Democrats and with the public at large over time, and (3) Gore openly and vociferously opposed both of these fairly early on, too. So why wouldn't Gore get the same Deanesque advantage Feingold has?

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 21, 2006 8:46:22 PM

Oh, Gore might. I'm not denying that. My point above is just that you shouldn't regard this new-media internet stuff as the explanation for Dean's rise. It was basically about Iraq.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 21, 2006 9:23:10 PM

Sure, I'll buy that. But on the other hand, you can't exactly discount the new media stuff as a component of his rise, either. Iraq is what made Dean an attractive product; the net is what marketed that product to a bunch of voters who would otherwise never have heard about him while all the money and media play was going to people like Kerry, Lieberman and Gephardt.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 22, 2006 1:19:54 AM

"I don't know how much explanatory work the internet stuff does here. The old media was perfectly happy to play up the fight between the anti-war outsider and the pro-war establishment."

Yup. And it's worth noting that Dean did worse among the voters than anti-war candidates did during the '68 and '72 primaries, which I believe was back before the internets were as big as they are today.

What the internet did for Dean was allow him to dominate the year before the voting in a way that wasn't possible in '68 and '72.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2006 3:07:36 AM

And it's worth noting that Dean did worse among the voters than anti-war candidates did during the '68 and '72 primaries, which I believe was back before the internets were as big as they are today.

It's also worth noting that the '68 and '72 primaries happened under a wildly different structure. They were spaced much farther apart and without the top-heavy, supercompressed schedule that allowed Kerry's win in the '04 Iowa caucuses to more or less determine the nomination. Hell, back then the nominee wasn't nominated until the actual nominating convention! What a concept! The old primaries allowed insurgents to gain ground and even win the nomination; the new primaries are designed to crown a winner as soon as humanly possible.

People forget that after Dean's poll numbers crashed post-Iowa, they started trickling upwards again right before New Hampshire. If there had been a month between the two, he might have recovered enough to make a respectable showing in New Hampshire; one week, though, was never enough time to recover.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 22, 2006 3:32:47 AM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 12:58:30 AM

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