As national campaign manager for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, Joe Trippi became regarded as "the man who reinvented campaigning" after he used the Internet to organize what became the largest grassroots movement in presidential politics.
He took a long-shot candidate with 432 known supporters and $100,000 in the bank, and created a groundswell of 640,000 supporters through decentralized online "organization." And in the process, Trippi helped the Dean campaign raise more money than any previous Democratic candidate -- more than $50 million -- mostly through online donations of $100 or less.
For years, Internet enthusiasts talked about how the Net would change politics. But until Dean and Trippi came along, the main impact of information technology was to lower the cost of doing the same things campaign workers had always done. Computers organized mailings and tracked supporters. It was Trippi, however, who convinced Dean to put his faith in the self-organizing power of the Net. The result? Dean, for a time, became a serious contender for the Democratic nomination.
Trippi's role in the Dean campaign, and his published account of this -- The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything
-- turned Trippi into something of a celebrity in his own right. To his credit, he sought to use his growing fame to urge political reform in both the Democratic Party and the American political process in general.
And Trippi still maintains that the Internet is democracy's last chance. It is the one tool capable of reforming what he describes as "a corrupt political system that reduced politics to its basest elements.
"There has never been a technology this fast, this expansive, with the ability to connect this many people from around the world," Trippi wrote in his book. "If Madison was right, and the people can only govern when they can 'arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives,' then the Internet is the first technology that truly gives people full access to knowledge -- and empowers them with the ability to do something with it."
Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers,"
who appear in the March issue of Government Technology