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Case Reopened: Blogging after Iowa

      Does anybody here know how to play this game? as Casey Stengel asked about his New York Mets. 

     Did the Internet draft the wrong candidate?

     Did John Kerry and Iowa kill what we call “the transformation”? 

     Are we back (in New Hampshire) to a conventional slugging contest in the old media and field organization?

     Can Wesley Clark still be described as a candidate from the blogosphere? 

     Will Kerry ever be bloggable?  Does it matter?

     Just where are we now in the narrative line about the evolution of campaigning and the conversation of democracy? 

    Tuesday was a hard day of reappraisal among blog fantasists.  But 24 hours after the Iowa returns I am feeling better and not so humble again.  Why is it that only bloggers feel expected to apologize for our bad guesses?  The shrewest pollsters, pundits and opportunists in the game (including the Dean schmoozers Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin and Jimmy Carter!) have all given us faulty snapshots of the political rockslide we’re in–and will be in for some time.  Iowa was long supposed to be all Gephart and Dean.  Two days before the caucuses it was said to be a four-way tie.  Every guess about about this kaleidoscope is an instant absurdity.

    It is still the most absorbingly fresh and exciting presidential campaign since 1960, and the Internet effect is still critical, no matter the Dean flop in Iowa.  For a year now, it’s the Internet (including MoveOn and MeetUp) that has crystallized the possibility, articulated the opportunity, enlisted younger voters–and spectacularly built the turnout in Iowa.  And the campaign is still young.

   We bloggers should be prepared for a contest of sorts with the dinosaurs of old media.  The Iowa results were a victory for the other guys.  Television–both the paid commercials and the robotic, idiotic repetition in “news” coverage of the “angry” theme–was brutal on Dean and the amateur energy of his campaign.  The national newmagazines mugged him–TIME with its “Who is the Real Howard Dean” cover, Newsweek with its “Doubts About Dean.”  [I am reading with giddiness and horror Kevin Phillips’ “American Dynasty,” detailing doubts about the House of Bush that the newsmags have always avoided.]  Tom Brokaw reported on caucus night in Iowa that there was no discernible trace of Internet influence on the race.  Bob Novak opined on CNN that there never was any such thing as a Dean movement. 

     Chins up, bloggers!  We can take this teasing.  Yes, I gulp at my own misreading of John Kerry’s return to life in Iowa.  And still Kerry in Iowa was an unconvincing win.   A very large portion of the voters he converted in the last hours of the Iowa campaign were over 65.  Out of his own pocket, Kerry’s campaign spent more than $50 for each of the caucus votes he won Monday night.  Is this the new politics?  Has it crushed, or supplanted, or undone the new politics we’ve been looking at?  Your guess is as good as mine.

{ 15 } Comments

  1. Anonymous | January 22, 2004 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    From where I sit, there’s an uncomfortable conflation (and reification) of both Internet-based communication technology and personality in Chris’ condensed embrace of Dean and aspects of Internet culture. Dean is not necessarily the best nor the worst the candidate because of his deployment of Internet resources. But I’m sometimes uncomfortable with Chris’ position precisely because of an implicit technological reductionism in his advocacy of Dean’s candidacy, as if an aggressive embrace of this technology is sufficient criteria for an enthusiatic endorsement. It’s probably not fair to Dean, as well, to reduce his bid to a referendum on the political implications of this form of political communication and organization.

    As the late Gilles Deleuze noted, new technologies have a dual effect. First, they deterritorialize, breaking through old boundaries (as the Interstate Highway System, the telephone, jet travel, and other modes in recent history). But there is always, according to Deleuze, a definite impulse reterritorialization (gated communities, surveillance technology, datamining, the rise of actuarial/preventive techniques across society, etc.)

    I’ve always been somewhat troubled by Chris’ relatively uncritical embrace of the deterritorializing effects of technology, at the expense of looking at the alternative face and effects of technological development. My own work has looked at some of the more disturbing aspects of technological displacement and reterritorialization, whether in the recent “The Digital Death Rattle of the American Middle Class,” (at or in 1999’s “Late Boomerology and Beyond,” (

    The trick is to recognize the complexity of effects, and to careful sort out and develop practices of freedom, among them.


    Dion Dennis


    Dion Dennis
    Assistant Professor
    Dept. of Sociology and Criminal Justice
    Bridgewater State College
    131 Summer St.
    Bridgewater, MA 02325

  2. Anonymous | January 24, 2004 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Dean doesn’t play to the dinosaur TV people, and they don’t like it. He plays to those who like their TV dissonant. Dissonance ho!

  3. Anonymous | January 24, 2004 at 7:49 pm | Permalink


    I have to agree with Dion. Your post is very confusing. Are you for Dean? Are you for the internet? Or are you for Dean because you perceived him to be the most effective user of the internet?

    I don’t think you should support any candidate becasue the are the master of any particular communications tool.. be that the internet, TV or direct mail. I think you should support someone in large part for their position on the issues and then throw in a couple of points for maybe character, energy, experience, etc.

    I think Dick Morris was right when he pointed out in your recent interview that Dean may have 500,000 email names but that the Republicans have been quietly collecting 20 million addresses. As Morris intimated, Karl Rove knows how to use the internet.

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  8. RickVallen | March 13, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

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  11. news maker | May 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    In my “Political Observation” above, I’d like to clarify: when I say the “True Believers” are concentrating on picking the “best candidate”, I really should have said “the candidate who would make the best president, regardless of electability.”

  12. dizi | May 15, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    In my “Political Observation” above, I’d like to clarify: when I say the “True Believers” are concentrating on picking the “best candidate”, I really should have said “the candidate who would make the best president, regardless of electability.”

  13. Rey | July 14, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Blogging and social media all together had transformed the game of politics.

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