Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Dispatches: How to net voters in the US

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

Monday November 1, 2004

Howard Dean's former campaign manager Joe Trippi believes that if Democratic Senator John Kerry loses to President George Bush on November 2 the Democratic party will face a fissure of a size to allow the creation of a viable "third force" in US politics and upset the dominant two-party system. This new third force, he says, will be aided by the internet.

"If Kerry were to lose there is potential for an uprising in the Democratic party," Trippi told the audience at Poptech, a conference that looks at the impact of technology on popular culture, held in Camden, Maine last week. "If the Republicans lose their party could also fracture but [not] as big." Trippi believes that by 2008 a candidate using the net to raise money will be working outside of the two-party structure.

"I believe that the only hope for our democracy is the internet," Trippi said. "The internet is enabling the American people to change a system that isn't working."

Of course, there have been third parties in the USA before - remember Ross Perot - but, according to Trippi, the internet and its ability to reach people in a more efficient manner will turn a third party into a powerful player. Trippi is credited with reinventing political campaigning in America with the use of the internet to raise money for the Democratic maverick Howard Dean. The former governor of Vermont broke the record as the Democratic candidate who raised the most money - some $50m - from donations of $100 or less.

Dean's presidential campaign also pioneered dialogue with supporters via the internet. But he failed to win any primaries and bowed out of the race. Trippi said: "John McCain tried to reform the Republicans from within and was crushed. Dean did the same and was crushed. Before the net the urge to reform had nowhere else to go." But Trippi believes that the internet's time has come: "Politicians spend their time saying 'look at me', but Dean was the first one to say, 'look at you. You have the power'."


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