Off the Cuff: Joe Trippi
Joe Trippi is a long-time Democratic campaign manager and political consultant. Perhaps best known for his use of the Internet in the management and fundraising of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, he is the author of the book The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and The Overthrow of Everything. Trippi will be giving the keynote address at the Oberlin College Progressive Conference on April 14.
You’re keynoting the Progressive Conference on April 14th; what’s going to be the theme of your speech?
Well, it’s not my style to do a scripted speech, so I can’t say exactly. I want to talk about democratic politics and why the progressive movement is so important to the country now, not just with regards to the Iraq war but also for putting an end to poverty, and most importantly for a resurgence of idealism in our politics.
So you won’t just be giving a recap of your book?
[Laughs] Well, hopefully someone will have read it, but no — I’d like to talk about more.
A main point in your book is how the Internet has the potential to put political power back in the hands of the people. How do you think the Internet has changed since the 2004 presidential election?
During the Dean campaign, we didn’t have social networking sites — YouTube, Myspace, Facebook…I’m going to predict that this time around you’re going to see one of the candidates being completely destroyed or made by just someone catching them on their cell phone and posting a video on YouTube where they say something really heartfelt and genuine, or not…It’s going to be explosive—totally disruptive to the election process as we know it. We’ll be looking at the president at the end of this election cycle and saying it was something connected to the ’net that got them elected.
Do you have a prediction as to who will get the democratic bid in ’08?
I think Hillary [Clinton] will be formidable and tough; I think Barack Obama will be on her heels. We may even see the first brokered convention in our lifetime. I think all three [Clinton, Obama, and John Edwards] may well have the money to go the entire way, and if you have three candidates that have the money to stay the whole way, it may well be that none of them get the necessary percentage. Then it’ll be decided in a back room behind closed doors, which would be the ultimate irony of the new Internet-based politics.
You’ve been a big advocate of Internet-based campaigns and have said that while TV encourages apathy, the Internet has the potential to engage people in politics. Since the ’04 election, do you see any signs of the Internet just becoming the next form of TV?
I think it’s both. The Clinton campaign, for example — she’s trying to use [the Internet] like TV, and that’s the big mistake: you can’t use the Internet like TV. Edwards and Obama, they seem to be able to take on a little more risk…The ’net is really decentralized and open to the creative energies and control of the people, but I don’t know if it’s in their political DNA to be able to give away some of that control to the people. In the Dean campaign we thought it was well worth the risk. I’m not really seeing a campaign like the Dean campaign that’s really using the Internet as powerfully as it can be used, but we’ll have to wait and see on that — after all, we did lose in ’04. It’ll be interesting to see how this’ll play out.
And what about Joe Trippi — what can we expect from him in the near future?
[Laughs] ...I don’t know, except everyone at Oberlin will have to get a straitjacket and tie me up if I get involved with the 2008 campaign.