It is hard to imagine now that four years ago George Bush was reelected in the midst of a climate of fear and suspicion. Democrats were on the defensive, the long term relevancy of their party being questioned by the media. Today’s election may render the Republicans a minority party, completely out of tune with the mood of the country. What happened?
The easy answer would be to say “Iraq and Lehman Bros.”. Those two tragedies expose the fallacy of the neoconservative philosophy of preemptive war and radical deregulation. But I would argue for two different phrases–“Bottom-up and Broadband”. In 2004 Democrats were overpowered by two forces: the Republican Top Down money/organizing machine and the power of right wing talk radio. There were many states that will vote Democratic today (Montana, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana) that in 2004 had neither organization or media that reflected a Democratic message.
When after the 2004 defeat Howard Dean came to LA to campaign for the DNC Chairman spot, he said he would build a Democratic organization in all 50 states. And he did. But what Barack Obama realized from the start was that he was building a movement, not just a political campaign and he seized upon the bottom-up power of the Internet that Dean had pioneered and took it to a new level. And while the Clintons didn’t run a 50 state campaign, Obama did and it really paid off in the final month of the general campaign with the extraordinary organization And that’s where Broadband came in to the picture. Think about the effect of the will.i.am “Yes We Can” video, viewed more than 18 million times on the net.
What Broadband allowed progressives to do was to build an alternative media channel that could reach to every corner of the nation. So in Missoula, Montana the movement could have media to combat the daily lying screeds of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. No longer was the White House able to set the media agenda with the big networks and newspapers as they had in the lead up to the Iraq War. Sites like TPM-TV were setting their own media agenda and in many ways the networks and the newspapers had to follow.
So if it turns out we have built a movement from the bottom up with Broadband, the only question that remains is–how do we sustain it after the high of the election is over?