Saturday, August 4, 2007

Howard Dean on the power of the internet

More from Howard Dean's Yearly Kos keynote address. Part 1 can be found here.

Howard Dean: Now, I want to say a few things about the net. This is an extraordinary thing, and, speaking for myself, even after the campaign four years ago, I didn't realize what a powerful tool this is. This is the most extraordinary invention for empowering ordinary people since the invention of the printing press in the `400s. It really is. It has re-democratized America. There is an enormous shift in power. I thought the YouTube/CNN debate was sensational. And why was it sensational? That is the first time since the Nixon-Kennedy debates when ordinary people, not members of the media, but ordinary people in large numbers got to ask in front of a national television audience, any question that they could dream up. Censored of course by the CNN people, but I know the person who did this. He's about 26 years old, and he basically did, I thought, a pretty good job, putting up a generation of questions that were direct and directly from people's hearts and minds, aimed at the candidates. Put them on the spot--I thought, frankly, some of those questions were a lot tougher than what the media would have asked.

But even if it was tougher or not as tough, the point is, it got the exchange outside the cozy realm of the beltway and put it out in the rest of Ameria, where it belongs. (Cheers and applause.) It's okay to make politicians a little uncomfortable--it's good for us! And what a surprise that the Republicans don't want to do it. (Laughter.)

It turns out that as the influence of the internet expands, both by more and more people using it, and by the extraordinary innovations--remember, YouTube essentially did not exist when I was running four years ago. And today, without YouTube and the people who use it, we would not have a Democratic majority in the United States Senate. (Applause.) That is true. So, what this party is about is change and evolution, and that's not not easy. There are forces of resistance even inside the Democratic party--I know that would surprise you! (Laughter.) But this party is about evolution. This party is about the future, the other party is about the past. Look at who they have running for president--doesn't that look like something out of the 1950s? Look who we have running for president! (Applause and cheers.)

The fact of the matter is, it shouldn't be true, but it is a revolutionary idear to have the public taking over the agenda of campaigns and political parties had better get used to it, because they are going to lose and become irrelevant if they don't get used to it. The power in campaigns belongs as much to shifting networks of committed citizens as it does to the political establishment. And in the long run, community-built networks will have a more dramatic effect in bringing democracy to both America and to creating democracy where it doesn't exist now--I predict now, that because of the net, and because of the extraordinary binding of the world together, that Iran and China one day will have to decide that they have to become democracies, simply because they are forced to by the extraordinary devolution of power to their citizens because of the internet. (Applause.) Nations run by authoritarian forces will not stop the dynamic of technologically enabled citizens working together. Hundreds of thousands of networking citizens will find ways to circumvent and evade government interference in the free exchange of idears, as we have already demonstrated in the United States. Repressive governments at the helms of nations that would become world or regional powers, face a difficult choice. They can allow democracy to evolve and flourish on the internet, or they can destroy the technology that enables their best and brightest and most determined citizens to network, and that will cause them to fall back into third world status.

So, we can still win the battle for a democratic world. It will not happen by sending troops to Iraq to establish democracy at the barrel of a gun. (Applause.) The truth is that the most important weapon in the struggle for world democracy is a free and open, commercially and politically unfettered internet that empowers ordinary people from across the globe to speak and act in the interest of their own communities. (Cheers and applause.)

When I started as Chairman of the DNC, I said that Democrats had to show up everywhere and campaign everywhere, and ask for everybody's vote. And that includes the way we interact with communities online. In the Democratic party we're focussed on connection, empowerment, and community organizing. And I'm incredibly proud that our candidates have begun to change with the times. We are running what I call two-way campaigns. That is, we're using technology to start a dialog and engage ordinary Americans. Traditional campaigns have relied on enormous amounts of TV advertising, 30 second spots, aimed at you, telling you what we think, and what we think you ought to do. The new campaign, the two-way campaign is, we listen to you before we start talking, and we, throughout the campaign, have a dialog between the people whose votes we're hoping to get, asking for their advice as we go through, and taking it to heart. This is not a gimmick or a "schmooze" as we call it in the trade. This means real two-way campaigns where the views and opinions of the American people have an impact on the leadership, so leaders are with the people instead of seeking to lead folks that aren't interested in being led by them. (Applause.)

It is an extraordinary evolution. An extraordinary evolution. Essentially it means that politicians have to acknowledge something that's been true for a long time. Which is, power is loaned to us--we don't own the power, and we need to earn the power every two years. (Applause.)

Taking a break from transcribing to do some family stuff. May transcribe more later, depending on whether my Sitemeter indicates that the effort is of value to people.