National Journal – Michael Barone – American Politics In The Networking Era

This is an America where Microsoft overtakes IBM, where FedEx overtakes the U.S. Postal Service, where Wal-Mart overtakes Sears. It is an America whose network-connected Special Forces overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan and whose network-connected Army and Marines overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It is an America where the abolition of guaranteed welfare has produced higher incomes and greater independence for the target population, where network-connected police forces have cut crime by more than half in New York City and shown the way toward vast reductions in crime across the nation.

Our private sector and important parts of our public sector have moved from industrial command-and-control America to post-industrial, Information Age, network-connected America. In 2004, our politics followed.


The parties went about raising their turnout in different ways. The Democrats depended on labor unions, as they had in the past, and on the turnout efforts of billionaire-funded “527″ organizations. (These are named after a section of the Internal Revenue Code, and a number of these groups were funded by rich men like George Soros, who spent $27 million trying to defeat George W. Bush. Thank goodness the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law got the Big Money out of politics.)

Now now, Michael. Let’s be nice, they did their best.

The Bush campaign was different. Its architect was Rove, who remained in the White House and advised President Bush on policy as well as politics; its structural engineer was Mehlman, who created an organization unlike any seen before, a networking organization that far surpassed what the Democrats were doing.

In mid-2003, when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged ahead of other Democrats in fundraising and in the polls, much attention was given to campaign manager Joe Trippi’s use of the Internet. He used it to bring volunteers and money into the campaign, and to allow Dean supporters to add their own words, literally, in the campaign blog. Many political supporters were impressed, and rightly so, that the Dean campaign amassed a list of 600,000 e-mail addresses. But few reporters at the time took note of the number of e-mail addresses the Bush campaign had collected: 6 million.

No of course not, why would they? Republicans don’t deserve to be reported on. The democrats are all so romantic and rock-and-roll. Republicans simply lurk in their caves counting their gold coins (Even if the billionaires are the liberals, but let’s ignore that, too).

Well, joke’s on them. A few reporters might have to suppress their gag-reflex long enough to report on the republicans once a week or so, just so their dem friends don’t get hosed again.

To make sure that those volunteers were achieving their goals, Mehlman established metrics — numerical goals, measured by third parties. Every week, the leaders of the local, state, and national organizations got reports on whether those metrics had been achieved. Productive volunteers were given positive reinforcement, sometimes a call from Mehlman himself. Unproductive volunteers were replaced or persuaded to do more. Mehlman’s management was very much like former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s management of the New York City Police Department: Precinct commanders were given goals — low crime numbers — which were independently validated. Those who produced were promoted; those who failed lost their jobs. As a result, crime in New York was cut by more than 50 percent — more than even Giuliani thought was possible.

I remember when Giuliani did that, and everyone scratched their heads and said, gee, why didn’t we think of that.

Anyway, it’s really long, but it goes on and is quite interesting.