Stirling Newberry speaks here about a telltale struggle with the Wesley Clark campaign which he helped create. He is the blogger who wrote earlier this month: “By the time you read these words the bell will be tolling for Wesley Clark’s candidacy.” And thus he crystallized a contest between people who drafted Clark and those who manage him; between analog and digital politics; between the Pyramid and the Sphere, as Newberry likes to illustrate it. It’s a contest that isn’t over between Internetizens and the Clinton alumni, between blog spirit and Democratic memory. Because Newberry remains a fierce Clark loyalist (to the candidacy if not the campaign) and because he is still blogging regularly to the Clarksphere, the fight defines a nice puzzle about politics in the Internet era: can dissension actually promote a campaign when it’s an exercise of independent initiative on the wide-open Web? My guess is: yes.
Stirling Newberry, I discover, is a musician as well as a programmer, a history buff as well as a politico. As persuasively as anybody I’ve met, he grasps and elaborates what feels so extraordinary about this moment, including: the Linux vs. Microsoft modeling of the new “open source” politics; the transition from campaign organization to electronic networking; the arrival of Internet time in politics; the convergence of “influentials” in the blogosphere; the link between rock ‘n’ roll and blogging; the Iraq War trigger on the blog surge, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson connection. This first half of a longer conversation addresses Wesley Clark’s missed opportunity to develop his Net roots. Stirling Newberry would have urged Clark, for example, not to concede or abandon the Iowa caucuses but to turn them over to his bloggers, “make Iowa the test cast of the new politics,” an independent sort of seminar in self-organization on the Web. In the second half of the conversation, which I will post tomorrow, Newberry takes a crack at the new “master narrative” of American politics. Listen here.