Wednesday, August 25, 2004


This was response to somebody's post on Edwards' official campaign blog on December 13, 2003. I later re-posted this on

What you have just described, accuratelly, is a revolution. As Eric Hoffer wrote so eloquently in "True Believer", revolutions have a) educated ideologues, b) charismatic leaders and c) fanatical non-thinking ground troups. The first provide the wording for the reason to have a revolution in the first place. They provide the "brain" of the movement. The second stir up the masses with fiery speeches and the third take up arms and fight. They are the "heart" of the movement. Unfortunately, on those rare occasions when revolutions did work, history proved that neither a) nor b) nor c) are temperamentally suited to take up the role of governing. The a) deliberate too much (think Vaclav Havel), the b) act before they think, as well as think they know enough and can work alone (think Fidel Castro), finally c) just have no idea why they are there in the first place - they got an endorphin kick from the process and find victory to be anti-climactic. The role of governing needs to be given to another person, someone who is a natural diplomat, who knows enough to make decisions, can "play well with others", network, trade tit-for-tat and build the government from scratch over a new scaffolding the revolution provided. If we assume that the Dean movement has all the elements of a revolution, let's analyze it along these lines. Who are the ideologues? It's not Trippi, OK? This movement is more anti-Bush-ideology than one that relies heavily on one of its own. But, I guess, kick me if I am wrong, that here we have a large and diffuse field of ideologues. Presidents Carter and Clinton have written a bunch of articles and given interviews that delineate what might be considered an ideological base. Many books have been recently published, mostly defining the ideology by contrasting with Bush-ideology. These include works that range from comical (Franken, Moore), serious but funny (Ivins, Carville), to serious (Krugman, Begala, Coleman, Cohn). However, in an unusual manner, the most important ideologues are actually the c)-group - the supporters. Dean himself, of course, is b) - the charismatic leader. It is the supporters who define who Dean is, what his platform is, and what the rhetoric should be. He listens to them and parrots it, in a strange feed-forward loop. These people are "professional" political activists who discovered the Internet early on as a means of organizing demonstrations against whatever is the enemy of the day (free trade, war etc.). When the enemy became Bush, they needed the candidate to pit against Bush for next year. They looked around to see who had a blog and they found Howard. Thus Howard became the charismatic leader. Who knows if he even wanted to be so? Too late, nobody asks him anything any more. His campaign is not run by him or Trippi, it is run by the activists and Dean is just the lightning rod for the movement. Imagine an alternative (however impossible) scenario: All 10 candidates (Graham included) anounce on the same day, and open up their blogs on the same day. Who is the leader? Not just Dean, but all 10 of them. Who decides what the leaders stand for? The candidates themselves and not their supporters. The supporters are divided across the candidates according to personal preferences and, each happy with the chosen candidate, nobody attempts to change him or her. So, let's say that Deanomania prevails in the primaries and Howard is the nominee. What happens next? First, the revolution is effectively over, as it was meant to revolutionize the Democratic party, not he USA. Second, the idea of a revolution is so un-American, voters are going to be leery of a movement that seems too revolutionary, not to mention how wonderfully GOP can play that card. Dean as a candidate does not really have much chance. But, for the sake of the argument, let's assume he wins in November. Is he the best person to run the country? Remember, he is a b) - the charismatic leader! And what did history have to say about the success of charismatic leaders once they gain office? Not much positive, I am afraid, because they tend to continue to behave like revolutionaries at the time they should practice diplomacy, a very different activity by all means. Also, consider the foot soldiers of the movement - what would they want after their leader has won? They have no experience in winning their causes. What should they do next? What to demonstrate against next? Will some of them ask for favors in return for their courageous fight? A job at the White House? So, what should be done? While Deanomaniacs provided the energy and focused it on Dean, it is of paramount importance to make a "switch" in time for the general election. Replace the Energizer Bunny Dean with someone who can both beat Bush and later be good at governing. Several candidates currently running would be good Presidents if elected, but I believe that only Edwards can beat the Rove machine. That is why I blog here every day.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:42 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink