Lessons for the Green Party: Joe Trippi review, Chapters 1 & 2.

Joe Trippi's Book

Joe Trippi's Book

There are a number of different ways that a fledgling party like the Green Party of Canada can learn how to ‘do’ politics. They can bloody their noses in election after election, learning the ABC’s. They can recruit political hacks from the old line Party’s to teach them. They can also take their opportunity to blend the old, and new by studying the published works of the hacks, and applying their brains to solving the old problems in new ways.
In a sense, that what the now famous Joe Trippi, past Campaign Manager for the Howard Dean campaign did. He took two decades of experience as a democratic Party hack, and tried some new stuff in a sort of a ‘hail mary’ pass, on behalf of a total no-hoper.

I just got back from my 7 year old daughters Tae Kwon Do practice, where I read the first two chapters from Joe Trippi’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. Now that I think about it, the matial arts background to my reading was much like traditional politics with blow and counterblow, defence then attack. Perhaps Judo would be a more appropriate background to studying a new way of ‘doing’ politics?

There are lessons to be learned from Trippi, but I caution my readers that US Presidential politics is a very different beast from Canadian Parliamentary politics. I have heard about, read about, and seen Greens trying to ‘do Trippi’ before. I think that the basic problem is that they have tried to duplicate a message and model that simply doesn’t translate. We don’t have anything comparable to the primary campaign, with thousands of local meetings on the schedule, and a ready made structure to hang a grassroots campaign on. If we try to rote learn Trippi, then once again, we’ll find out that it somehow doesn’t seem to work for us.

There is enormous potential in viral networking, but it is not the whole campaign. What many Greens have failed to grasp is that there needs to be a superstructure to graft that network onto. The Campaign team has to be there, doing what campaign teams do. They craft their message. They put organizations in place on the ground. They plan events to an externally dictated schedule, county by county, state by state, with the primary as the ultimate goal. What Trippi, and Obama have done is to harness the enormous potential of mass, unfiltered communications to recruit many hands and brains to help out. Trippi comes from a background of solid political fieldwork. Door to door canvassing. Organizing at the grassroots level. Fighting campaigns tooth and claw. He knows what he’s doing, but he IS a product of his political environment.

From tonights reading, I drew two useful things. The first thing is encapsulated by the following quotation from Trippi’s book: “Political organizing is all about finding people who think like you and drawing them into your organization any way that gets them involved — everything from canvassing to donating money to simply voting for your candidate — while at the same time trying to get your message out to people who haven’t decided yet.” There it is, in a nutshell. Everything that an organizer does is to serve these ends. GET like minded people INVOLVED! (Remember my posts about the pub nights? Easy, hassle free involvement in politics that’s actually FUN!)

The second was the simple observation that the Internet is a place where an unfiltered message can be communicated. There is no media to distort the intentions, or words presented to the community. A second ‘eworld’ observation is that the Internet enables people with common interests to assemble, and communicate in a community of sorts. The conclusion I draw is that: The mass presentation of an undistorted message enables assembling a community, and empowering this community for political action. Sounds too simple? The most powerful things are, So I’ll leave execution to my next posts.

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7 Responses

  1. I read that book. Was great fun!

    Most of Trippi’s advice is plain common sense. And I do wish grassroots parties. of which green parties both are and aren’t, would use some of it. With scarce financial and human resources available to them, the only way for a party to gain a following and build momentum is through the Internet.

    The problem of course is translating an Internet following into boots on the ground. Cuz in the end, only votes count and a non-existent or poor GOTV campaign will put all the hard work to naught.

  2. “A second ‘eworld’ observation is that the Internet enables people with common interests to assemble, and communicate in a community of sorts. ”
    Which is in part the answer to Mark’s question in the previous post, it may well be the most effective way for rural folks to become involved. It is very true in my own case, I would rarely drag into town for any kind of gathering but can participate in discussions via blogs and email without the time and gas involved in driving to town.

  3. Hi Chrystal, I agree that the internet was, and will be the best way to build the party. I remember back to 2004 election, when the Green party had by far the most visited political website in Canada. (They had about twice the traffic of the Liberal Party). There was a real surge in volunteers and donors online.
    As far as boots on the ground, Trippi did it for Dean by using meetup. He made it very easy for dispersed supporters to hook up face to face, which kind of filtered the passive observers from the activists. It is pretty good model because you can basically get whatever level of support is possible from every contact.

    That leads me to Rurals comment. I guess that the difficulty of the face to face in Rural areas, like Mark’s EDA out west, is that it can be really difficult to get people together. I still think that it is essential to get people face to face in between elections. The internet is a good way to engage people, but a key element of Politics is face to face engagement. I’ve seen Green Party oriented Forums before, but somehow the critical mass doesn’t seem to happen. The GPC blogs don’t cut it because they deliberately restrict access to current paid up members. How that will draw in more membership is beyond me.

  4. Rural, that describes my situation too – although this area is mixed rural and town. Gathering together using the Internet also enables people who’ve mobility challenges to get involved.

  5. […] media. Trippi showed how these tools can be mutually re-inforcing. Trippi also showed how to harness an online community, and mobilise it in the field.  What Trippi didn’t have was a long term commitment from the […]

  6. […] the gatekeepers to online traffic and search engine rankings. Expect Trippi’s book: ‘The Revolution will not be televised‘ to enjoy a brief new day in the sun. There will be a much bigger broadcast media component […]

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