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Jewish World Review August 6, 2003 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Revolution


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | There is nothing new about the sudden emergence of a golden boy in the Democratic primaries. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Gary Hart: All seemed to come out of nowhere to contend for the presidential nomination.

But Howard Dean's candidacy is important not just because of who he is - a genuine left-liberal alternative - but for how he has managed to vault the front tier of the Democratic pack. Dean's use of the Internet to raise money, generate support and enthuse the party's activists will long be remembered as a signpost along the transition from the television to the Internet era of American politics.

Like John McCain in 2000, the Vermont governor has harnessed the Internet to raise funds quickly, cheaply and legally. But McCain's online fund-raising was catalyzed by a victory in the New Hampshire primary which he won the old-fashioned way, by media and pressing the flesh. Dean, on the other hand, used the Internet to grow from nothing into a full-fledged contender.

Capitalizing on the Democratic Party's pro-peace and pro-gay base, Dean used the customized, one-on-one, retail politics of the Internet to spread the word of his candidacy. Supporters forwarded the e-message to their family and friends and the Dean message spread virally, the first fully Internet campaign.

The larger message of the Dean candidacy is that the era of TV-dominated politics is coming to a close after 30 years. With dwindling audiences and an increasingly sophisticated electorate, the 30-second ad and the seven-second soundbite are losing their power to control the political dialogue. Taking their place is grassroots organizing, made possible by the Internet, in which candidates grow from the outside, mobilizing on the hustings, guerrilla style, before they take their act to the center stage of national politics.

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After the collapse of the political bosses in the '60s and '70s, it seemed, briefly, that grassroots direct politics would become the new order of the day. In 1964, enthusiastic, young Republicans overthrew their party's Eastern establishment and nominated Barry Goldwater at a raucous convention in San Francisco. In 1972, the young Democrats had their day overthrowing the party elders and nominating George McGovern.

But both Goldwater and McGovern were crushed by the new force of television advertising. Lyndon Johnson defeated the Arizona Republican and Richard Nixon trounced the South Dakota Democrat with a torrent of negative advertising, marginalizing them on the right and left fringes of U.S. politics.

Grassroots politics remained interred for 30 years as the fund-raisers, the fat-cat donors, media mavens and political consultants (like me) ruled the process. With Americans mesmerized by television, the media blitz and the glitzy 30-second ad carried the day.

But the habits that underlay this media domination of politics has ebbed. The top prime-time TV shows now draw 10-15 million households where once they enthralled more than 30 million at a shot. National television news no longer reaches 60 million homes every night, but has to settle for 20 million instead.

The low costs of Internet campaigning, and the viral way in which it spreads by word of mouth and person-to-person contact, is offering an alternative to top-driven, capital-intensive TV campaigning. A candidate like Dean- animated by a cause larger than his own ambition - can attract vital support and find himself catapulted into prominence by astute use of this new political tool.

Dean may falter as John McCain did, but the inevitable replacement of television with the Internet as the fundamental tool of political communication is destined to accelerate. The true answer to campaign-finance reform, the Internet will open a real possibility of a transfer of power to the people, much as the right-wing Goldwater Girls (like young Hillary Rodham) and the left-wing activists in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had hoped would happen decades ago.

As TV's power wanes, so will the power of money to control politics. Just as the political bosses faded into irrelevance, so the excessive power of fund-raisers and big donors is also likely to drop.

In sector after sector of American life, we are throwing off intermediaries. We use the Internet to buy cars, book travel, do banking and sometimes even to kindle romance. We are now throwing off the political intermediaries and using it to pick a president.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business" Comment by clicking here.

Up

07/24/03: As Bush falters, watch Hil run
07/21/03: Peace dominoes begin to fall
07/17/03: Let's hear the good news
07/14/03: Sending troops to Liberia could be a bridge too far
07/10/03: McGovern II
07/07/03: French: Toast
07/03/03: At moment of truth, Hillary turns backwards
06/27/03: And now the dominos begin to fall
06/25/03: W's triangulation
06/23/03: Presidents often fall victim to their own success: Some advice for the president
06/18/03: Times not a-changing
06/13/03: Why did Hillary write the book?
06/11/03: Will the Rev go rogue?
06/05/03: Napoleon's maneuvers at Austerlitz have nothing on prez's
06/02/03: Prez's tax-cut catch-22 for Dems
05/29/03: Liberal author documents Clinton's wasted second term
05/16/03: Early Democrat handicapping for 2004
05/14/03: Gephardt: AWOL
04/30/03: Prez can lose
04/25/03: My message to Putin: Call President Bush
04/23/03: NO OIL FOR BLOOD
04/21/03: The war that network news lost in Iraq
04/15/03: Media meltdown
04/10/03: Giving government a good name
04/03/03: Polls' message to Bush: Relax and win the war
03/31/03: Bomb as you need
03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2003, Dick Morris