There’s been lots of talk about Howard Dean’s use of the Internet, but honestly his campaign is just now entering the phase that interests me the most. As expected, Dean has stopped actively campaigning, though he still encourages supporters to vote for him and send delegates to the convention to help set the party’s platform. More importantly, he hopes to turn his loose-knit community of supporters into a grassroots movement:
[W]e will convert Dean for America into a new grassroots organization, and I hope you stay involved. We are determined to keep this entire organization vibrant. There are a lot of ways to make change. We are leaving one track, but we are going on another track that will take back America for ordinary people again.
MoveOn.org started five years ago as an online petition against President Clinton’s impeachment and now has over two million members. Dean already boasts over a quarter of that number (no doubt with significant overlap), but Deaniacs are even more self-empowered and decentralized than MoveOn members. That makes it a harder ship to steer, and Dean now needs to shift from head of a campaign to first motivating voice in a community of equals. If he can manage that (starting, perhaps, by rejoining with his old campaign manager Joe Trippi) then the movement might yet demonstrate the Internet-age decentralized politics that we breathless techno-pundits continue to predict.