Politics and the Internet (Dean isn’t “raising money on the Internet”)

So, it appears that the New York Times has discovered the fact that politicians are starting to use the Internet. Their insightful analysis begins and ends with several articles describe the Dean site as a place where donors use credit cards to make donations.

The Times (and the entire beltway establishment) appears to see the Net as just a modern version of TV–with a little junk mail thrown in. For them, it’s all about being in charge, about marketing AT people, not with them.

My favorite part of the article in today’s Times is this quote from Bob Bauer, “whose company represents Mr. Kerry, Mr. Gephartdt and … Senator Joseph I. Lieberman”. Mr. Bauer says, “…But the Internet as a revolutionary tool? I don’t know.”

So what’s the real point? The internet isn’t a tool. It’s a medium. And it’s not a medium for interactions between Dean and person A and Dean and person B. It’s a medium for interactions between A and B –about– Dean. In other words, by enabling an ideavirus to spread, the Internet allows someone without the money to buy a lot of TV to be the topic of (many) conversations.

The insight of the Dean campaign (accidental or not) is that sites like meetup.com and constituencies of online sneezers can dramatically increase the chances that your candidate will get talked about. Add to that a site optimized for the interactions you desire (where’s that banana!) and a candidate can radically recast the entire campaign process.