I totally resonated with Clay Shirky’s article about the issues that led up to the rapid loss of elevation that the Dean campaign experienced. It mirrors the “campaign v. candidate” thesis that I had been putting out, but with an eloquence and completeness that I hadn’t reached (in my mind or in bits).
There’s an important point that runs through this whole line of reasoning, and which I haven’t seen brought out yet. That is that it’s possible for a strong bottom-up movement to disconnect from the top-down, and in certain cases that’s deadly. In this case the the people joining the movement were not being faced directly enough with the Dean messages, so were being allowed to join the movement without paying the price of admission in the form of commitment to the top-down cause. Reading the Wired article and the Hanna Rosin piece that Clay quotes at length, you can see the vivid pictures of the disconnect between Dean’s top level messages and what was going on day-to-day in the campaign (“Itas a story not about Howard Dean but about James Moore…"). In other words, too many people were allowed to make the Dean campaign into what they wanted it to be, not what Dean needed it to be to get actual votes.
When looked at this way I believe there is a fundamental failure of Joe Trippi and the model he executed - too many people were allowed into the tent without having to buy into Dean’s positions.