Zephyr Teachout is one of only 20 or so people I can think of who feels genuinely 21st Century. I just don't think the 20th was up to inventing a farm girl, Yale track star, collaboration true-believer who went on to essentially run an electronic presidential campaign while barnstorming around the country in an old Airstream trailer.
But I'd never actually heard her speak before. So I was pleased to find this Chris Lydon interview with her (MP3). It's an interesting window into her personality. It's also chock-full of practical insights into what worked on the Dean campaign and why.
On a related note, with Dean taking such a beating in Iowa and New Hampshire, the backlash against the idea of digital campaigning has begun. Obviously, Dean has not performed as expected. But I think it is absolutely critical to recognize that Dean was an also-ran before Joe Trippi saw something in blogs and MeetUps. That Dean didn't win doesn't, to my mind, discredit the idea that politics has changed. Instead, that he was ever the front-runner proves that it has.
Exactly right. As dean himself pointed out, his campaign was something happening TO him, not a plan he contrived. Who can say as yet what drove it -- the message he sent? the message we took? the chance resonance with what we needed -- still need -- when we met up with/invented that mixed message?.
That message, different for each of us undoubtedly, but resonating among many through our own efforts (and Joe's), that message is our politics and lives on until we change -- it is just that, for me, Dean has turned out not to be the messanger we need.
There is that older tradition of political analysis that saw politicians as mere pieces of cork, lifted or let down by the tide, and that underlying tide consisted of rising and falling economic forces. Politicians, in this view, are part of society's "relations of production" whereas the politics of society are determined by its underlying "forces of production." The new-tech economy is loyal to Clinton, and that element of our society was hungry for someone to represent them. They siezed on Dean, and lifted him up. I agree with Clay Shirky on this, the Dean rise was a movement, not a campaign. In the end, people don't elect movements. Part of the reason for this is the Constitution - we don't have a parlimentary system where each party represents a clearly defined political doctrine. Instead we have two "big tent" coalitions that have to include strangely diverse factions. Also, American citizens are, in the end, forced to vote for a person, not a party representing an idea. For these reasons, campaigns can't be movements in America.
You can hear Zephyr just about every day on Dean for America Radio: http://radio.deanforamerica.com/
I clerked for a federal court of appeals judge for one year after I graduated from Yale Law School. During that year, I read several hundred clerkship recommendations from professors around the country, including one for Zephyr, who was then a student at Duke Law. It was the most extraordinary recommendation I had ever read then, or have ever read since. A good friend of mine also had the opportunity to work with Zephyr during the summer she spent working at a prominent D.C. law firm. He raved about her in equally glowing terms. It's nice to see someone so talented care so much about politics, and get involved in her home state of Vermont. I suspect we will hear much more about Zephyr in the future, and with good reason.
You are absolutely right: the Dean campaign was a success story for electronic campaigning, not a sign of failure. Zephyr Teachout and her colleagues deserve far more credit for how far they came in a very short period of time, than blame for not going far enough. I am proud to have been a Dean delegate candidate in 2004,and I look forward to many people active in the Dean campaign working to improve America for many years to come.