Monday, October 10, 2005


Net will propel unprecedented shift in power structure, Trippi says


Article Last Updated: Oct. 7, 2005 10:35 AM

PUBLISHED HEADLINE: Trippi: Net will revolutionize U.S.; former Dean aide speaks at Williams College

By Jim Mulvihill
North Adams Transcript

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The Internet is propelling the United States into an unprecedented shift in its power structure, according to political analyst Joe Trippi, the national campaign manager for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid who spoke at Williams College Wednesday night. As more people disseminate and gather information online, Trippi argued, the public will be better equipped to enable change in the way government operates.

"The bottom is coming together to try and change the top-down society that has ill-served the American people," Trippi said. "Both parties are guilty of that and it's why Dean's campaign was so successful getting the numbers of people it did involved in the campaign. That wasn't possible until this new technology, the Internet, came along."

A "top-down society" is how Trippi describes the country's previous and long-standing power structure, where the information people have access to trickles down from the most influential institutions. Now with the Internet, ideas have the potential to spread like wildfire regardless of their source.

About 50 people assembled in Williams' Brooks Rogers Recital Hall for the one-hour lecture. Trippi was promoting his recent book, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything," his account of how the Dean campaign changed the way politicians reach the electorate and raise money.

Campaign left mark

The Dean campaign floundered, but left its mark by raising more cash than any Democratic candidate in history. "And with all due respect to President Clinton, we didn't have the Lincoln Bedroom to sell for $100,000 a night," Trippi quipped.

As Dean's campaign manager, Trippi organized a grassroots effort specially designed for the 21st century, relying heavily on the Internet to solicit donations and rally support. The success of Trippi and Dean's strategy, in step with its time and ahead of its competition, left President Bush, John Kerry and other candidates scrambling to expand their Internet presences and get a piece of the action.

"The reason the Dean campaign happened was not just the campaign," Trippi explained. "It was that the tools were there for the American people to get en-gaged, connect with each other and make real change possible. More and more Americans every day are figuring that out."

Trippi has also advised past Democratic presidential hopefuls Edward M. Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart and Richard Gephardt. In addition to political consulting, the Maryland native maintains a blog at, consults for several tech companies, and works as an analyst for

Trippi pointed to the file-sharing pioneer Napster as a prime example of how regular Americans have forced change upon a deeply entrenched institution by rendering it irrelevant, a strategy that could be applied to campaign finance as easily as audio recordings. "The Internet, mobile technology and other such technology is distributing information democratically," he said. "It can't be just distributing information, it's distributing power, and the place it's putting that power is the bottom."

The Dean campaign demonstrated the potential for a campaign to step outside the standard fund-raising process. The ex-Vermont governor inspired fierce loyalty among his supporters, in part because of his refusal to accept federal dollars for campaigning. In a meeting with Kerry's camp before the 2004 Democratic convention, Trippi advised the party's nominee to make a similarly bold gesture.

"'What you need to do now is opt out of the federal finance assistance for the general election,'" Trippi said he told the Kerry leadership. "Had he done that, I think a couple things would've happened. I think about 650,000 Deaniacs would've lost it, about 1.3 million Kerry people on the Net would've lost it, about 2.7 million Move On people would've lost it, about 3 million DNC people would've lost it ...They all would've gotten up the next morning saying, 'He's starting with nothing but me.' You don't believe that a million people would've sent in $100 the next day, or $200?"

Circumventing the system and putting the fate of the country back into the people's hands is the kind of development Trippi believes could even begin to unravel the two-party system. He went on to say that a revolution of this sort is becoming increasingly inevitable.

"This is going to affect everything: corporate America, the government and the national parties," Trippi said. "The status quo can not stand; the American people can not continue to stand for what's going on."

In a question and answer session afterwards, the veteran of seven presidential campaigns admitted he is highly unlikely to work for any candidate in 2008 because the daily grind is too taxing.

"It would have to be somebody pretty incredible," he said. "I'd like to see my kids grow up."


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