The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Jerome Armstrong’s Oral History of the Dean and Clark Movements

(This is a comment elevated from my post on why Democrats and Obama don’t do what progressives want.  It is written by Jerome Armstrong, not by me. Jerome was the founder of MyDD (Kos’s Blogfather) and co-author of Crashing the Gates, among other things- Ian)

by Jerome Armstrong

In the fall of 2002, I was busy putting together about a 10-page memo for Joe Trippi on how Howard Dean could win the upcoming Presidential campaign. And it had revolution written throughout. Fundraising, organizing, communicating, the whole thing. In that document was laid out the fifty state organizing campaign, how blogs would build the movement around Dean, and how small dollar online donors could become bigger than the John Kerry’s decades-long amassed donor mailing list. Nothing short of revolutionary. If you’ve read Trippi’s book, you’ll see that he gained insight into applicable tactics from the rip roaring 90′s Raging Bull financial commenting site. I was also on those boards (for better or worse– or much worse), so we were both of similar mind when Joe got the opportunity to take over managing the campaign, on the possibilities. We also saw what McCain did after New Hampshire, with online fundraising, in 2000. It was quite fantastic. Heady days. But the point is that it was all revolutionary for the campaign, especially so being the primary for Democratic President. The electricity of the netroots movement emerged right alongside Howard Dean message that was anti-Bush, anti-war, and full-bore partisanship.

And if you experienced that ’03 campaign, you gained insight into those revolutionary tactics. If you did not, then they didn’t make up what you brought to your next campaign. And the experience didn’t need to be one of being on the winning side either. I have to credit a book that Nate Wilcox had me read for understanding this, by my looking at what happened with TV and how it changed political campaigning, by Ray Strothers called “Falling Up: How a Redneck Helped Invent Political Consulting”.

So, in 2003, we on Dean’s campaign had a big advantage on the rest of the campaigns. Dean, for the most part, knew the message to use. The campaign knew exactly what tools to use to grow. None of the other campaigns (Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman) could figure the internet part out (save Clark’s nascent campaign).

Howard Dean’s Strategy

As we entered the Spring of 2003, the Dean campaign staff gathered together with early bundlers for a strategic retreat in Vermont at the Trapp family lodge. Trippi had always worked on separate presidential campaigns against Paul Maslin. So, wanting to work together, he had brought him on as Dean’s pollster. They put together a campaign strategy that made sense. In short, rely on the internet-based strategy to grow the campaign up to the caucuses and primaries. Dean would lose to Gephardt in Iowa, placing second. Then, followed by Dean winning first in New Hampshire, he’d thereafter steamroll to the nomination. This plan went awry by the Fall though, when public polls came out showing Dean way ahead in Iowa too. Maslin tried to temper Dean’s expectations, but Dean decided a sweep was a must, and the whole campaign strategy was changed. Iowa all of a sudden meant everything.

Dean For America

Second, also from that March 2003 Trapp family lodge meeting. Trippi, Markos, Zephyr, Matt Gross and a few others and myself sat out on the front lawn early into the next morning, drinking and talking about what we were in the middle of transpiring. Finally, around 2 am, the staff comes to shut us up for the night, as the other guests are complaining. As we are ending and walking in, I ask Trippi what’s going to happen when it looks like Dean might win. At the point, it was still unfathomable to most, but I could tell it wasn’t a new thought to him, but instead something he’d been mulling quite a bit, and he replied: “the moment when the insurgent becomes the frontrunner is the moment when he either becomes the establishment or…” and just looks at me, like he was waiting for me to answer, but his face gives me no clue as to how to answer. My thought is that, ‘well yea, the insurgent throws down the revolution,’ but that answer didn’t phase the ‘what happens next’ look on Trippi’s face.

Fast forward about 6 months, I get onto the campaign elevator in the morning, arriving late as usual, same time as Trippi and his wife Kathy Lash. She turns to me and says, “Dean is going to be on next week’s cover of Time and Newsweek.” My first thought was to get them both signed by Dean, which I did later, but I turned to Joe and said to his nodding up, “I guess this is that moment”.

Well, what came next first is that Dean tried to become the establishment candidate. By November and December 2003, the formal endorsements. First Labor groups, then Al Gore & Bill Bradley, were rolled out. Tom Harkin in Iowa. Dean’s poll numbers grew higher. The fundraising numbers went through the roof, but a funny thing was happening with grassroots internet support. It was coming to a standstill around 600,000. I was running all of the online advertising for the campaign, so I firsthand saw the efficacy and resulting metrics for every ad we put out there. We were growing in fundraising, but the movement wasn’t getting bigger. It got so bad, that Nicco Mele had to fudge up the email signup numbers that were public on the website some days (due no doubt in part to Clark’s campaign which I’ll mention below), and we had to figure out techniques to do more than juice them going higher.

What Happens Next

So, when the insurgent becomes the frontrunner, Dean tries to become the establishment and win it all, starting in Iowa. And then we learned what really came next, and what Trippi didn’t even want to give voice too, perhaps fearing the jinx of materialization, or maybe just not having a clue either, but I think he knew what he feared happening. And here, we are talking about 1) the splitting of the movement; 2) the murder-suicide; 3) the dancer’s music being turned off .

Part of the first is the Clark campaign; part of the second was done by people that included the guys that wound up making up the inner core of Obama’s ’08 campaign; and part of the third was done by the corporate-DC media meme.


Sometimes I wonder if the division is just a feature of the whole thing. The Clark movement is complex. There was a point in time after it was all over, when a scandal formed, by something Zephyr Teachout said about Dean and Trippi having ‘bought out Markos and Jerome’ for their blogging. Zephyr was wrong about that part, but what she was really referring to (and something I fully explained when this came out) was that we’d been talking with Wes Clark about his running for President. The problem was that Markos and I wanted to work together as political consultants. I had ties with Dean, he with Clark, and so we agreed that whomever hired us first is where we’d go. That made the dilemma easy, or so it seemed at the time.

Back then, in 2002, I lived out in Seaside Oregon, in a wooden log-heated cabin on the banks of an estuary, from which I’d kayak out into the pacific ocean during days when I was free from online trading. I was standing outside on the phone one morning, amidst the chickens, listening to Trippi say, “Look, it’s the moment. I don’t want you to be thinking 10 years from now ‘I wish I would have taken the opportunity’ and not have taken it.” I was thinking to myself, ‘this sounds inspiring but it also sounds like something he might say to everyone he want’s to hire but’… I’m in, and tell Markos I’m heading out, moving the family to Vermont. But Markos doesn’t quite want to give up on the Clark dream, so while we go to work for Dean, he keeps maneuvering and eventually sets up a back room meeting for Clark and Dean.

In the meantime, Maslin revs up a focus group to run the possibility of a Dean-Clark ticket. One night, as the campaign is shutting shop, Trippi asks me to stay on in his office and watch the 3 hours of tapes. Alone in HQ’s late into the evening, the future seems to be laid out. The possibility of teaming up an anti-war Doctor that’s Governor, and a 4-star General that’s progressive, just wows the dozen or so democratic primary voters assembled for the group.

Once Dean gets the gist of the focus group results, he decides that he will break convention and, months prior to the voting, ask Clark to be his VP. Markos and I buy and dream of 16 years. Clark agrees to meet with Dean but won’t decide on the VP role for sure. It goes back and forth but the meeting is on. Trippi told me later that the day of the meeting, Clarks’ guy called and asked that Dean not ask the question. But when Dean is set on something, I am pretty sure it went down with Dean asking, and Clark not committing. Only those two were in the meeting. Dean left the meeting saying it’s not on. Later, Clark would claim Dean asked him. I’m sure he did.

The second part of this involves Hilary and the Clinton’s. In the fall of 2003, Armstrong-Zuniga, as our nascent firm was called, got a call from Patti Solis Doyle, about interviewing for Clinton. I had known of the Clinton’s since going to school in Arkansas in the mid 80′s. And despite one of my close friends being the president of the College Republicans, and having a girlfriend that worked on Clinton’s Little Rock Gubernatorial campaigns, I couldn’t be bothered to even vote. But in 1986, I walked into the election-night hotel room full of campaign supporters the night of the election, as the couple was going on stage, and I didn’t even notice Bill up on the stage, just being taken aback at the radiance around Clinton. I will digress and mention that it’s also the night I stepped out onto a balcony to share a joint, and walked back into the hotel penthouse amidst a small circle of guys that were spittin’ tobacco juice onto the carpet floor, saying crazy-ass militant and reactionary shit: a Tommy Robinson suite and crew. WTF, I thought, if this lunatic is a Democratic rep, we are doomed.

I digressed to talk about the origin of the Tea Party, and now return to Hillary Clinton and the Fall of ’03, when AZ went to DC and met with Patti Solis Doyle. We were ‘chosen’ with two other firms for her new media operation, and it awaited finalization. Only much later did I learn that Clinton wasn’t just making a plan of setting up a team for her ‘standing committee’ or whatever, but instead was putting together a team for jumping into the ’04 presidential campaign. Damn, naivety strikes again. But anyway, when that didn’t happen is when Clark decided to make it a go. And Clark was supplied with plenty of former Clinton-Gore staffers and Arkansas funding to make it a go. Not all, mind you, as there were definitely grassroots operations leading the way. Without that, Clark was nothing. It was just as electric at times for Clark as for Dean. But without a doubt, coming about for whatever reasons, the division of the netroots here had succeeded. It wasn’t nearly as nasty as ‘08, but a feature, not a bug, perhaps.

Obama Team Origins in 03 and 04

Axelrod was the main strategist on Edwards entirely Iowa-based campaign; Gibbs started out as the communications director for Kerry, before moving to become the leadership of a PAC that played a big nasty role in Iowa; Plouffe led Gephardt’s Iowa political effort. They were on the opposite side of Dean in 03-04, and so they learned the revolution the hard way. And no doubt hated it, for that matter. Every single snide remark that was made about Dean’s campaign, the bloggers and the netroots, originated from their campaigns. It was Robert Gibbs that placed the quote, “Some of these Meetup events look like the bar scene from Star Wars.” Gibbs did much worse damage with the anti-Dean TV ads he helped get funded and air in Iowa. The Gephardt campaign went nuclear on Dean in Iowa. Totally committing suicide with heinous and suicidal accusations to bait the Dean campaign into a fight. Those items are well documented. I noticed something else though too, which happened late in the Iowa campaign, and deserves mention. This was the makeover that Axelrod performed on Edwards campaign. Most believe, that if the ‘04 Iowa caucus had been a week later, Edwards would have won it. I think that’s true.

The week prior to the caucus in ‘04, I flew out to Iowa and just drove around, attending events of the candidates and taking it all in. I’d report back to Trippi what I was seeing. Trippi, hilariously to me, had a seemingly 24/7 video camera person trailing him everywhere, even with private conversations. I would wear the orange beanie and meet deaniacs from all over the country in Iowa for the caucus, hang out with Matt Stoller, Annatopia and other bloggers, attend the other candidates events, and break bread with all the DC gravy train consultants and reporters hanging out in Des Moines. Three things were clear to me. First, the Dean campaign was in glorious shambles on the ground. Second, Edwards had stolen the campaign’s ‘change’ message. Third, Dean was not very fun to listen too, being way too hot on stage.

Seeing the public poll numbers for Dean slip from a month prior, everything was tense. Trippi had been freaking out over all the mismanagement happening at the organizational level, so a few weeks out hired as many old hands as he could to try and salvage the caucus operation. A significant structural problem for the campaign was that Iowa and New Hampshire were run in-state, separate from the national internet campaign’s efforts. That wasn’t as big a deal for NH, as it was just a few hours drive to Manchester from Burlington, but Iowa was isolated.

It was a massive miscalculation to change the strategy to making it all about Iowa, but what capped it all off for me was seeing Edwards had changed his campaign slogan to “Change for America”. I had thought, based on my results from online advertising, that part of the explanation for Dean’s fall off in appeal is that the hardcore support behind the “You Have the Power to Take Back Our Country” message just wasn’t widespread enough to win an election. I had begun testing slogans like “Let’s Change America” and the like, and found them more having more widespread appeal as the elections neared, but Howard had just not learned how to handle the energy created by the crowds, got into a bubble, and every time I saw him speak, as the campaigned progressed toward the Iowa caucus, he became more and more strident. Edwards was mellow (quite the contrast with ‘08) and had the appeal for those tuning in late. I remember standing at the back of the audience at one of Edwards events, next to a reporter whom pointed out Axelrod to me, muttering, ‘damn, that guy knows how to mold plastic’. As far as I was concerned, Edwards nailed it, just too late. Having Edwards become branded as the ‘change’ candidate in Iowa, rather than Howard Dean, was quite an deft accomplishment.

Anyway, this trio, Plouffe, Gibbs, and Axelrod, all saw what was revolutionizing political campaigning firsthand in ‘03-04. And after that, Axelrod and Plouffe would go into MA in ‘06, and embrace a pre-Obama, decentralized online-offline campaign for Deval Patrick. Contrast this with Clinton’s top team. Solis Doyle, Mike Henry, and Mark Penn. The campaign organizational leadership for Clinton. They had no experience at all with the ‘04 Presidential race. I’ll come back to this later.

Dean’s Takedown

The Scream. Ugh. Right after the Iowa caucus, I went and spent a week in DC. I had planned it being an event of transitioning to something great. It turned out to be a ‘what’s next’ sort of thing as the writing on the wall meme took hold. Not that this was my take, I saw right through it and believed that Dean would transition to win NH and be right back in it. But then, I’d meet with people in DC that viewed it and were already talking about the Dean campaign in the past tense. ‘Oh, that was terrible how the media destroyed his campaign… now that it’s over, can you help us with our internet strategy?’ These were DC people that just prior to The Scream had Howard Dean pegged to win it all. Ahh, dammit.

The Scream was covered in CTG and elsewhere, and the only other thing I’d add is that the wound was entirely self-inflicted. The Dean sound guy running the feed to the networks isolated Dean’s voice, instead of opening it up to hear the crowd and context. Anyone that listens to a feed with the crowd can hardly hear Dean’s voice, and it certainly isn’t a sole scream. It’s funny to think that such a seemingly small tweak set off a meme that derailed a historical campaign, but such it is.

The way a meme comes across in DC was explained really well by Dylan Ratigan recently, saying in effect that, “everyone in power, and the political system as a whole, knows that the solutions to reform the system already exist, yet pretending we don’t know the solutions exist is the easiest way to maintain the current system.” The Scream was an easy way to pretend DFA never happened. The plug playing the music was pulled. The moment had arrived, and the candidate did not become the establishment. Instead, he was utterly destroyed by his campaigns isolation of the dancer’s voice from the followers screams, and the replaying of this scene, over and over again, across America’s TV’s.


Jerome Armstrong: A blogger is the first follower, not the leader


What is an economy?


  1. Jerome Armstrong

    In 2009, following the Republicans winning the Gov elections in VA and NJ, I posted a prediction that Republicans would win 50 seats in the House during the ’10 mid-terms. It seemed outlandish and was dismissed. Ben Tribbett though, emailed me after looking at the partisan election results in those ’09 contests, compared with the same contests in years past, matching it up with the following year’s House results, and told me that it, based on the analysis, it could be more like a 75 seat swing.

    Tonight’s VA & NJ results are ominous for Democrats.

    VA: D-41 R-59
    NJ: D- 45 R-48.5 I-6
    Partisan gap of 21.5%

    VA: D-47.5 R-45.5 L-6.5
    NJ: D-38 R-61
    Partisan gap of 21%

    The 2% win by the sleazecorruptscumbagassdipshithole Terry (my new Governor) McAuliffe, comes with his outspending his opponent by $15M. Polls showed him up by 12-17% a month ago. One acronym: ACA.

    Given the Republicans took 62 seats in 2010, they are not going to gain anywhere near that amount in 2014. But we can expect it’ll be a rout that the Democrats have earned for their siding with the banks and insurance companies to punish the middle-class.

  2. Ian Welsh

    I expected 10 as well, because I knew Obama’s economic policies were going to produce a shitty “recovery” (really a depression). Predicted it as well. Different methods, same result. 🙂

  3. The folks in power, the good people who get together at their meetings at the WEF and WTO and ALEC and Trilateral Commission and CFR and Bilderberg and Bohemian Grove to decide what’s good for the rest of us, no doubt wanted the outcome we’re getting today, and I doubt they wanted a whole lot of that which Howard Dean could dream up. So what was the idea? Were you going to gain enough power to force these people into a compromise? Were you going to displace them altogether? The guy who won that nomination, John Kerry, appears to have been the template for all future Democratic Party Presidential candidates: combining the policies of W. with the brains of a high-quality specialist.

  4. Bruce Wilder

    Wow. That was discouraging on so many levels, it is difficult to even formulate a sensible response. Do people, who do politics have any time in their day to understand it?

  5. Ian Welsh

    So far this post isn’t getting a lot of traction. Pity, because this is real information from someone who was there about important history that is still effecting us today.

  6. Jerome Armstrong:
    Can you really compare this year with 2009? At least we won with an uninspiring candidate in VA instead of losing in 2009. Also, New Jersey is an outlier as your fellow consultant/elite class of Democrats didn’t give any backing to Buono what so ever. And that doesn’t even take into account Christie’s being given a pass because of Sandy.

  7. @Ian

    When I first read this post as a comment, I was grateful. Jerome has put the history into a format and context that helps clarify and amplify what was going on from his point of view, and it really helps clarify how we got from where we were a decade ago to where we are now, step-by-step.

    This is real history that leads directly to today. I can’t imagine that anyone would dismiss it. It’s not the whole story, of course not. But it’s an important fragment.

  8. Jerome Armstrong

    @Phil Perspective, the comparison, and anything specific, has nothing to do with the prediction. It’s entirely a correlation of the off-year and subsequent midterm election. The partisan gap is the same, so I’d expect that the RDI in ’14 is similar to last time, based on prior results.

    Besides, it’s pretty easy to imagine that had the VA republicans nominated Bolling and Snyder for Gov/LtGov and we’d be looking at a sweep instead.

  9. Jerome Armstrong

    @Ché Pasa, I wanted to do a straight reply to the post that comment was first in, about the netroots & Clinton/Obama, but this contextual history came out instead.

    I was really dumbfounded in 07-08, by how the netroots, seemingly turned off their rationality to be blinded by the image crafted around Obama. There was never an inch of difference between Obama and Clinton, other than what Ian noted– that at least Clinton seemed accountable to the netroots. I tried to argue that to DailyKos and others but to no avail– hearing how Obama was anti-war, Clinton a warmonger, and the clincher, that it wasn’t about having netroots power but about electing a President that shared our values. I realized that ‘cheerleading for the team’ was as far as it got for the bulk of the movement that comprised the netroots.

    I just decided to say screw it, call it as I see it, I’ll come back to the blogs after a few years, and more people realize it. Anyway, I will get around to writing that piece too.

  10. BDBlue

    Very interesting. I wish I had an interesting comment to add. Right now I don’t, but I am grateful for the history.

  11. For a different perspective:
    I was in Iowa and volunteered for the Edwards campaign. So my perspective is of one who had never participated in a national political campaign. Having my degrees in education, theater and film, I believed in “changing the world thru art”. The only other foray into politics was as part of a political satire group in 1984 (played Nancy Reagan) in NYC and after that some political and social sketch comedy at Lewis Black’s club. Today, Lewis still provides a visionary social and political perspective as does Louis C.K. I am more comfortable in that world, so I entered party politics in 2003 feeling very much like a fish out of water.

    I remarked to Dan Baltz of the Washington Post at the first Daily Kos convention in 2005 that I felt that if we (the Edwards campaign) had 3 more weeks that we would have won. He looked at me and said, “One more week.” So that is the popular viewpoint. And I felt it in those bitter cold dreary days going door to door in Newton, Iowa. I cannot accurately describe the sadness in those houses where we would meet the newly unemployed workers at the Maytag plants and those who were fearfully holed up waiting for their turn in their tiny living rooms starring at the TV. This was working class America. An Edwards speech in 2003 resonated with me when he declared that we must “reward work over wealth”. I voted for him in the poll that June, but still couldn’t decide on who to contribute to or how to contribute. My younger sister died of a brain tumor that November and that propelled me into deciding to actual volunteer to work on the ground on a campaign. I’ve read that some people engage in politics in place of personal therapy. That’s where they put their anger. Whatever. My sister had been a speech writer for a big CEO of a fortune 500 company and I always thought she would have been great in politics. So, it seemed that she and I were embarking on this adventure together. I suddenly called the Edwards headquarters, got my instructions, and booked a hotel.

    I did not join for a job. I joined because naively I thought somebody other than the same old same old Democrat like Kerry or Gore or Clinton or Mondale or…or…or…most nominees in my lifetime could stop the misery in towns like Newton. I had voted for Jesse Jackson in 1988 and that was my second huge disappointment since Bobby’s death in 1968. (Only 3 Dems went to Appalachia to campaign; Bobby, Jesse, and John. ) All the other Democratic candidates I voted for but with any joy. But there was a smell of something different in the air and I wanted to give it a try.

    What I learned from Iowa is that the caucus system there can be gamed. That’s what the Obama team who were there must have learned. That most Iowans are not as engaged as we are led to believe and don’t show up to caucus. The state party is in control. But in 2004, it got a little crazy as the orange hats descended on Des Moines. The orange hats turned out to be a bit of a mistake as it looked like an alien invasion. This was the land of Gimme Caps. I met a Iowan at the airport the morning after the caucuses. He told me that his teenage son was scared by the aggressive youngsters in the orange caps. This wasn’t why Dean lost but all the other campaigns used that fear of outsiders as best they could. One of the reasons I felt comfortable in going door to door and being a precinct captain at an actual caucus in a farm house was that I was born in Iowa as was my father and I now raised cows in Montana. (Skipped the living in NYC for 15 years part). So I had a little gravitas although the natives were still a bit wary.

    When all was said and done, the powers that be always prefer and get a controllable candidate; someone they could trust to take instructions like Gore and all the others. They also listened to some consultant that thought the whole war veteran deal would play well and then they could avoid the class warfare meme of Kucinich and Edwards. (Obama provided the anti 2 Americas theme at the coming convention in July). Kerry was charisma challenged which presented a problem, but, hey, they could try to sell him as thoughtful and smart. Sell, sell, sell.

    I began to see what “managed democracy” was all about. And I began to see that marketing is the death of any movement or good policy. We all lose when it’s about optics and *when politics is a just a game.

    *Garret Keiser’s “Crapshoot; Everybody loses when politics is just a game”. Harpers 2006

  12. Celsius 233

    So, it’s essentially confirmed that the system is broken, dysfunctional. Run and controlled by galoots.
    That much is pretty clear even without knowing the inside details.
    It would seem to put a lie to the adage; knowing/understanding the problem is the path to the solution.

  13. Celsius 233

    I probably should qualify my remarks regarding “the system”; it’s broken for those still thinking we have a functional democracy. For those in control, the system it is fine and functional.

  14. S Brennan


    Great post, I’d like to highlight some areas vehement agreement:

    “What I learned from Iowa is that the caucus system there can be gamed”. Caucuses are truly rule by thuggery, that’s why both parties in my state went to court [successfully] to stop our open primary system and install the “mob rule” of caucuses .

    “thought somebody other than the same old same old Democrat like Kerry or Gore or Clinton or Mondale or…or…or…most nominees in my lifetime could stop the misery”

    “When all was said and done, the powers that be always prefer and get a controllable candidate”

    “Obama provided the anti 2 Americas theme at the coming convention in July” Anybody who didn’t realize he was a scam artist then shouldn’t comment on politics…or at least do so knowing that they are most likely fools

    “I began to see what “managed democracy” was all about. And I began to see that marketing is the death of any movement or good policy. We all lose when it’s about optics and *when politics is a just a game.”

    Great post MM. At least Edwards talked the talk…but on that subject, why do so many men choose weakness, this life is so much easier if you wholly reject cowardice and embrace duty?

    – Brennan

  15. Here’s the URL for the Keizer piece — it’s behind a subscriber firewall.

  16. @Montana Maven

    Some learn what you learned in Iowa, whereas others learn they like the game and want to keep playing endlessly — or at least until they crap out or become too tired to go on.

    Bluntly, the game itself provides an endorphic high, and if you win, oh by golly.

    I agree completely that

    marketing is the death of any movement or good policy

    which is why I am so critical so often of the marketeers who have long held such sway in politics as well as the blogosphere. They’re selling product, whether it is a candidate or the latest neo-liberal policy fad, or what have you. It’s rarely driven by the public interest — if such an old-fashioned concept is even acknowledged.

    As for the outsider factor in the Dean campaign, that turned out to be one of the major disabling factors that seemed to go unrecognized by those in charge until it was way too late. You could campaign for Edwards in Iowa as an “almost-local” as I could campaign for Dean in New Mexico — because we had some kind of connection with place that made sense though we weren’t resident (in my case, “not yet,” but I would be eventually). There were, however, dozens of complete outsiders with no connection to the local place or people who’d come for the final push in New Mexico, and the local organizers (realizing what had happened in Iowa) had a hard time figuring out what to do with them.

    It reminded me somewhat of old time encyclopedia sales in which people would be recruited from some location then taken hundreds or thousands of miles away to hit the streets and sell books — on the basis of their enthuisastic dedication to… what, exactly? The sales pitch? It didn’t work very well for encyclopedias, but it had been done that way for decades, so surely it worked well enough for those in charge to keep doing it. And try to make it work.

  17. @ S Brennan
    Thank you. I was going to reply to Celsius 233 that the system was “Totally broken and run and controlled by galoots ” and thugs. So thanks for pointing out the thuggery. I am interested in these caucus thug stories. Witnessed thuggery in the state Democratic party.

    @ Cassiodorus
    Thanks for the link. I let my subscription run out as it’s not the same without Silverstein and Hodge. But that article is one of several I keep close by. It is an eloquent plea for putting labor over profit and to reclaim leisure from the rich.

    Note on blogging. I blog to continue to educate myself and have a conversation. I feel like I’m in the Forum in ancient Athens when I come to a blog like this. I have a basic philosophy of the 2nd commandment which is “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Much trickier than it looks as you need to really “know” yourself to love yourself and “know” your neighbor demands that you try hard to get into their shoes. It can’t just be your neighbor in the gated community but a neighbor in a city or a thousands of miles away in a yurt. A philosophy is fluid. Arthur Silber’s new philosophy is “Everything I Knew is Wrong.” That’s mine too.

    In Ron Suskind’s book on Bush’s treasury secretary Paul O’Neill “The Price of Loyalty”, O’Neill ponders the difference between ideology and philosophy.

    “ideology comes from feelings and it tends to be non-thinking… Ideology is a lot easier, because you don’t have to know anything, or search for anything. You already know the answer to everything. It’s not penetrable by facts. It’s absolutism.”</blockquote

    He adds on the other hand

    a philosophy, which is always a work in progress, is influenced by facts… a constant interplay between what do I think and why do I think it…

    O’Neill seems to enjoy the dialectical approach. He mentions that he enjoyed looking for the new unaffiliated idea based on looking at the virtues of opposite opinions. He enjoys the process of thinking a thing through and reaching middle ground; not necessarily the less desirable process of compromise in which both parties lose something.

    O’Neill seems to enjoy the dialectical approach. He mentions that he enjoyed looking for the new unaffiliated idea based on looking at the virtues of opposite opinions. He enjoys the process of thinking a thing through and reaching middle ground; not necessarily the less desirable process of compromise in which both parties lose something. But his boss was a “closed shop” and new ideas were not welcome.

    Note on the first Netroots Nation in Chicago (2nd convention after the first one in Vegas): It reminded me of a trade show complete with trade booths. Same for the “Take Back America” annual convention. It was a trade show for consultants, people running for office, politicians, and lobbyists and always took place in Washington. See, I decided to go to everything I could Democratic to catch up with what I thought progressives were “doing”. What a sad surprise.

  18. Whoops! That block quote got out of hand. Sorry.

  19. Jerome Armstrong

    @Ché Pasa, the “outsider factor” for Dean in Iowa was one of the fabrications created by the Gephardt campaign. Their saying outsiders would flood Iowa and caucus as out of state pretenders. Obama had way more people come in from Illinois, and there was no such reaction. This is one of those things that came out as post-analysis for why Dean lost that just isn’t the case.

    As I mentioned in the post, DFA had to a fault walled off Iowa from the national campaign. The campaign had local leadership that called all the shots, to a fault. There was no internet strategy inside Iowa beyond the once a week email. And they were terrible at their job. At the end of the campaign, they reported that they, based on their organizing throughout the year, had 50,000 1st choice indications gathered. But they had done no follow-up with the 1’s at all, none.

    The only reason why DFA had the orange caps flood the state in the end was because the campaign could see the writing on the wall. It was a go for broke situation. The campaign also bought every damn cable ad, even cartoon stations. And it flew in old-timer caucus organizers in that last month to go manage the precincts, just to try and create a miracle. Maslin always had Dean polling soft in the state, and never above 30 percent (Dean wound up with 18%).

    The ‘collapse’ in Dean’s numbers in Iowa had more to do with the candidate being way too hot the last few weeks, never having the runaway lead in the first place, and losing about 10 percent of his vote to Edwards in the final week.

  20. Patricia

    Montanamaven: ISTM that an ideology emerges from a philosophy and that an ideology is a distillation or extrapolation of a philosophy towards a set purpose.

    We have been much better at discussing philosophy than forming workable ideologies. It has been part of what paralyzes us.

    Ian et al, thanks for this conversation. I need it very much. Learning a lot.

  21. Jerome Armstrong

    @Montanamaven, I agree that Edwards message was right on. Of course, he was a flawed person, but so was JFK, way more so, in that sexual promiscuity regard.

    I actually resonated much more with the progressive populist tone of Edwards ’08 campaign. One of my regrets is not having taped the entirety of a campaign speech I heard him give two nights before the caucus to his volunteer/staff in Council Bluffs. I hadn’t heard a Democrat talk like that since hearing Jesse Jackson come to my college in 1988.

  22. Jerome Armstrong

    I never took the yearlykos, or now netroots nation, seriously, after I convinced Warner’s PAC to throw down $75K for a party atop the stratosphere, and I heard so much whining about how he was trying to buy their vote. Only someone who could be bought so cheaply would think up such a stupid complaint for not enjoying a free party.

  23. @ Jerome

    Thanks for clarifying the situation in Iowa and how, most likely, that loss came about; all I knew about it was what was in the news and how our local DFA operation in California was responding to what was being said and to what they were told was needed. I couldn’t go to Iowa, but we were aware that things were becoming tense… We went to a bar to watch the returns from the Iowa caucuses and saw the Dean Scream in real time, and we were cheering our heads off at his enthusiasm for carrying on in the face of the Iowa loss. Watching the media almost as a unit turn his enthusiasm and our enthusiasm into an albatross was gut wrenching.

    But I don’t think we can discount Montanamaven’s perceptions from the ground in Iowa as the Dean Team outsiders flooded the field with their orange caps, nor my own later encounter with the DFA operation in New Mexico, where the question of what to do with outside volunteers was a real and delicate matter. No matter how much hay the Gephardt campaign and the media made of it, when you’re trying to deal with voters one on one and you have no idea what their issues/concerns really are — because you have come from a completely different environment and have different issues to deal with yourself — it’s a problem. It can be overcome to be sure, but there wasn’t time.

    The problem of Dean losing support to Edwards and Clark as the campaign went on is one of the more challenging questions. It turned out to be too easy to steal his thunder.

    And then Kerry walked away with the nomination.

  24. @Che Pasa
    You are spot on. There is nothing “wrong” about outside volunteers coming in but they do need to understand the concerns of locals and have a real infinity for those concerns. The Edwards volunteers I met including my door to door partner, a 19 year old Iraqi vet who traveled by bus from out East believed and understood the labor message. Edwards message and his amazing delivery of it was what started the big mo. Content first, but a whole lot of style points. I got chills reading his speeches, but being in the same room was stunning. He was eloquent. By that I mean that he took ideas that the powers that be and their media lackeys intentionally make wonkish and insidery and made them easy to understand without condescending to them like using the word “folks”.

    I accidentally stayed in the same hotel as the Edwards family and friends-last hotel room in town and the size of a closet- so I campaigned with distinguished Judge Farmer and his wife elegant and beautiful wife Martha, both in their 70’s. His best friends from college were there; both trial lawyers. One night in the lounge by the fire after a grueling day of door to door, Judge Farmer in a rich deep bass Southern dialect told the story of how John won the famous Lackey case – the one where the little girl had her intestines sucked out by a faulty pool drain. Everyone thought they would settle the case, but John asked them to fight for a larger settlement. Judge Farmer had asked the company lawyers why the delay in getting the documents from Chicago to North Carolina. “Couldn’t they just Fed Ex the other cases?” he asked. There was silence….. Finally the lawyers said that the “trucks” had not yet arrived. The Judge leaned in to us and said, “You could have heard a pin drop. It meant that there were far more cases of injured children whose parents had settled.” The Judge said, “And for his summation on this very technical case, he talked to that jury with no notes for one and a half hours. Never saw anything like it.” Judge Farmer also said that when Edwards was in a trial, other lawyers would line up in the back of the room to watch him. Edwards was a cool customer and never stooped to warm and fuzzy feelings talk. (Yes, I understand that a lot of people think all trial lawyers are phoneys and just really good actors, but the ones I met in Iowa had pretty big hearts and had, yes, made a lot of money at the same time). He had a righteous anger over injustice and inequality that lifted you up. He did not appeal to patriotism or American exceptionalism or any of the usual blather that was coming out of Kerry’s mouth and in 2008 Obama’s. Edwards would explain the problem e.g. lack of jobs and then go to solutions like union card check and going after Wall Street crooks. He talked about using law enforcement to track down terrorists not using the military. He talked about getting the children of Pakistan out of the Madrassas and into non ideological schools instead of bombing them.

    Bobby Kennedy could talk like that and so could Jesse Jackson. My friend Margot Kidder was on the Jackson campaign and she and another guy whose name escapes me told me of how he went to Appalachia and the white men and women grasped his hands and thanked him with tears in their eyes for seeing their plight; for making them visible. John did the same thing in West Virginia when he discovered the man who had not talked in 40 years because he had a cleft palate that could have been easily fixed if we had a national health care plan. Most politicians are shiny brochures. Edwards, at least, carried a users’ manual.

    “As you do unto the “least of these”, you do unto me, ” said a philosopher named Jesus. From that philosophy comes everything else. End poverty and you solve everything else. Any moral ideology or manifesto must start there. It’s the inequality stupid!

    Note: Jerome is right. Obama in 2008 flooded Iowa with volunteers from Illinois which is right across the Mississippi. They blended in. They swarmed the campuses. And they also seemed very big and quite a few I met said they were ex Republicans. Hmmmmm?

  25. Jerome Armstrong

    Oh yea, that was Obama’s Iowa secret, no doubt about it. With as many volunteers they had wanting to come to Iowa, and pay them, and the amount of time they had to match them up for locational canvassing. I talked with Republican supporters of Obama that were canvassed at the door, then followed up on correspondent issues that were targeted to their liking. Not that this was all that Obama had going. The had it going on similarly with an anti-war section, a youth section… it was pretty remarkable. I could describe the caucus-goers of Edwards and Clinton pretty succinctly, demographically and ideologically, but Obama’s was just a match-up that was created around a candidate.

    I tried to find a blog post that I’d written on it, couldn’t, but did find a run-up one that you’d like:

    “Last night, hearing John Edwards speak, I came out of there rooting for him to win Iowa– I want a nomination battle. His speech was so good that I found myself ranking it in the top three of all-time that I’ve heard delivered, right up there with hearing Jesse Jackson speak in Portland OR during the’88 battle, and Howard Dean’s ‘I want to know’ speech in the CA Dem convention of ’03. Edwards was that good.”

  26. Pachacutec

    Just catching up. Bookmarked this page for future reference. A lot of the anecdotes bring back memories, though I wasn’t in Iowa.

    I was at the infamous Warner party, though. Good food. Lots of people posing. There was a weird dynamic where a number of people at DK/NRN felt a bit flattered and pleased with themselves ot have been invited and feted. That led to the backlash among those who were not, and then the “scandal.”

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