The Way of the Whigs

Garrett and I are coasting into Reagan National just before 11pm now, on a Delta flight that’s not even 1/3 full (sadly). We’re returning from an afternoon at Haavahd’s Kennedy School of Gov’t, where we were Joe Trippi‘s guests at hisIOP study group. Garrett figures he’s the first person from his, err, percentile of his graduating class to return to Harvard as a speaker. And I’ll venture that I’m the first person from anywhere in my graduating class at Midd to talk to a group at Harvard. Ha.One of the points that Trippi made this afternoon is replaying itself itself in my mind. He was responding to a question about how Dean campaign’s use of internet and its ability to foster a political culture of empowerment will change the future course of politics. Trippi explicitly predicted (and repeated again in his panel discussion later in the evening) that whichever of the two mainstream political parties in America first fails to embrace the internet and personal empowerment revolution will go “the way of the Whigs” by 2008. He suggests that a new party will fill the void, and the attempts of Ross Perot, John McCain, and Howard Dean are all evidence of this loudening drumbeat in American politics.It’s a bold statement. Part of me wonders if he’s not making this prediction for the theatrical purpose of attaching himself to a stake that he can claim to have driven into the ground, which is perfectly reasonable for a political expert like himself. However, I actually don’t think he’s saying this to make news. My less cynical side agrees with him: The personal empowerment revolution has begun, and the medium where it is taking place (on the internet) is also the one place where it can not be stopped. Howard Dean’s candidacy may be over, but he helped bring a developing revolution from the shadows into the mainstream, accelerating the process. Now it’s just a question of when companies, organizations, and political campaigns will get on board. Watching this evolution unfold and helping it along should be quite a ride. Who wakes up and “gets” that the old rules don’t apply? I’m putting my money on the corporations for the sector that figures it out first. They’re noticing that the floor is falling out beneath them as their target advertising demographic turns off the TV and goes online (Lost Boys, Wired 12.08). Most importantly, they stand the most to lose.

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