DDTI: Trippi Keynote


Trippi delivers his keynote address to several standing ovations

Its a mistake for anyone to buy into the spin that's coming out the broadcast media. They didn't understand what was happening before, why should they understand now? Broadcast democracy has failed us. DMCA and Patriot Act aren't being discussed by the mainstream media--they're being discussed on the net. The current system is rotten and broken.

If took 5-6 years to understand that the Kennedy-Nixon debate was a defining point in history. No one understood that it would come down to buying one-way media messages using $2 million contributions.

The Dean campaign was about overthrowing that system. That you couldn't get there in 13 months isn't surprising. There is only one tool that will allow the American people to take their government back and that's the Internet. Its not going to happen on CNN or in the LA Times.

The Howard Dean campaign is an Internet miracle Dean started with 432 known supporters nation-wide and and $150,000. He raised $45 million, a record and raised his stature to hundreds of thousands of supporters. The American people now have the beginning of tools and a platform to act. No one is going to do it for them.

The fact that the campaign had a clue that MeetUp.com could be used came from a relatively obscure blog. Joe read the blog and the campaign decided to embrace it. Now 200,000 people are signed up for Howard Dean at MeetUp.com. This was the Internet to get people to do something offline. Its not just the online tools, its the tools online that help people fulfill that energy offline in their communities and their neighborhoods. The Dean campaign didn't happen on TV, it happened over the watercooler and the Internet.

MoveOn was instrumental in teaching the Dean campaign about online tools and techniques. The political press has no clue what the Internet is or how it works. They have no way to write about it, they put it in their old context. The Internet community doesn't understand the political context.

The Dean campaign worked because all the people around the country gave him the standing to be an opposition candidate. Dean led the rest of the Democrats in this and could do so because the grassroots gave Howard Dean the power and voice to make that argument.

Broadcast politics is on the wane. Broadcast media has jumped the shark on the war and on the Dean campaign. Our democracy is seriously threatened now in ways the American people hasn't grasped yet. The Republicans raise more money under $100, $1000, $10000, $100000, $1000000. The Democratic party only leads in contributions over $1000000. The Dean campaign and Internet turned that on its head. Dean raised more money on $75/head contributions than any other candidate. Politics is about the money.

We're in the beta stage of Revolution 2.0. Its about the American people having the tools to say enough. The people in this room can give them the tools. This is not over. We need to reach deep enough to make the change. The day isn't that far off when 2 million people wake up, donate $100 each, and change America. Howard Dean is 670,000 people.

People are now comfortable enough and the technology is mature enough where Emergent Democracy can take place. The Internet took a party with no message and gave it a message. It took a party that raised only big money and turned it into a party that can raise money from small donations.

The current primary system was set up to ensure an insurgent candidate like Jimmy Carter never happened again. The cycle has been moved up to happen very fast and favors established candidates. The only way to win was to win Iowa and New Hampshire. Without the party institutions being for you, it was impossible to do this. The Dean campaign showed that there are new and different ways to get there.

The Dean campaign ran into broadcast media. When Al Gore endorsed Dean, alarms bells went off in every newsroom and every other campaign in the country. The alarm said "kill him now." "If we don't kill this son of a b, he'll be the nominee." The press corps determined to hammer him because they think that's they're responsibility. Gephardt wrecked the Dean campaign and the committed suicide. The Internet couldn't stop that.

Why does the establishment want it to fail? What's so scary about the American people getting evolved in their democracy. Its too easy to say that Dean is a dot.com crash. Dean gave them the ammo and the broadcast media used it to hammer him.

The system has taught Americans that their $25 contribution doesn't count. That their four hours as a volunteer is a waste of time. The system is so rotted, so corroded, that people believe they can't make a difference. The Internet has taught people that they can turn a race upside down. The Internet shows that people working together for the common good are powerful.

Ed Cone questions Joe Trippi during the O'Reilly Digital Democracy Teach-In

A woman at Penn State sold her bike for $79 and sent the check to Howard Dean. She sent an email saying "I sold my bike for democracy." Now all kinds of people do that. That's the power of connections on the Internet.

We didn't have the luxery to say "I think John Edwards is a great candidate." But given what we were up against and what we were trying to do, there has to be some way to build unity and not be in camps. No knight on a white horse, shining armor is going to ride into Washing ton and change it. It has to be us and the Internet is the platform that gives us the power to take the country back. (Standing ovation.)

Questions (led by Ed Cone):

  • What work? What got people to the polls? Tools that let people take action offline. Meetup.com. Tools that let people put in their zipcode and find out what was happening in their area. Deanlink allowed people to get their friends involved in the campaign. There was a very broad spectrum of people who were using the tools (14 year old kid from Alaska, 72 year old retiree). Eighty-nine year old man bought a PC and became a MeetUp host and team lead in his area. How do we build tools that let people take this straight into their community. The other problem is that its so transparent. Every other campaign can get the info. Kerry campaign came the Dean site, got the names of undecided voters and sent their own letters. There are authentication issues. There are significant suceptibilities to dirty tricks.
  • You make an analogy to eCommerce where bricks and mortar are often incorporated into the business. How well were you able to mesh Dean's organization with unions and other offline groups? Delegate selection is Byzantine. Dean's campaign thought MeetUp leaders ought to be delegates while the local Democratic chairs fought that. The establishment was reistent because the Dean campaign didn't do anything the way it had been done before. There's a large group, including broadcast media, who do not want to give up power. The media never turns the camera back on themselves.
  • There have been stories about your pay. The Internet should make things cost-effective. Talk to us about Joe Trippi getting rich on the campaign. The Kerry campaign will put on a dinner where you spend $350,000 on a ballroom, steak, entertainment, and fill the place with $2000/plate folks. The dinner is a huge success because you make $650,000 on it. Dean bought a $100,000 ad in Austin to take Bush on in his home state and used it to raise $1,000,000. The implication isn't just that I'm a thief, but that I'm a really bad thief. I made $165,000 on the Dean campaign. That's a lot of money, but its not millions. This is just broadcast media disintermediating me from the people who gave $75 to the campaign. I didn't have authority for budget and spending. We raised $45 million. My firm would have been Dean's media advisor whether I was the campaign manager or not. I would have made $165,000 either way. My partner has done the media buys for Dean for 12 years. This is about knocking down what happened. If people come to believe that this was a get rich scheme, then it will stop the movement, not just me or Dean.
  • How well was the campaign able to incorporate ideas from the grassroots? How important is that? The biggest problem was that there were so many ideas and keeping up on top of them. It's hard to be sure you're seeing it. It was an idea from the blog about the Governor eating a turkey sandwich while the VP was eating a $2000/plate dinner. MeetUp came from the blog. The idea of Dean bloggin on the Lessig blog came from Lessig and was, as Dave Weinberger said, one of the most authentic moments. The campaign stopped growing in the fall when they stopped putting energy into the growth and changed the focus to organizing on a state by state basis.
  • Is there a disconnect between what Dean was proported to be and what he was and how did that affect the campaign? Most people don't get a chance to meet the guy and talk one-on-one and so people put their own belief system on him. For example, many people voting for Kerry believe that he voted against the war.
  • What are the online missteps? After November, we couldn't figure out how to communicate with people. When Dean was ahead and looked invincible, many people didn't understand the urgency of what was happening and how vulnerable the campaign was to the outside forces. The blog comments to pleas were incredulous. The campaign could get messages to people, but they were public messages and they couldn't say what they needed to say. Transparency hurt honest communication with the support base. How do you maintain the openness and directness of the campaign and still not give away your strategy?
  • What will it take from people in this room to get a different kind of journalism that has some power and authority? I think its happening already. The Trent Lott affair was dropped by mainstream media and the blogospehere kept it going. The mainstream media didn't write about the Dean campaign or anything that was happening until Dean raised money. "Its the money stupid." IN the end, its the special interest money vs. us. The only way to get attention is to raise money.