Howard Dean’s take on politics and the Internet

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Howard Dean’s take on politics and the Internet

Posted by Jessica Shambora, Reporter
July 23, 2009 8:06 AM

Howard Dean may be out of a job soon. “The Internet puts people like politicians out of business,” said the former chairman of the Democratic National Party and Governor of Vermont. “Our own government is going to get run over by both the private sector and young people organizing over the Net.” But politicos aren’t completely out of the Internet loop, and Dean offered several examples of election results shaped by new technology.
He started by giving a “shout out to the founder of Meetup,” the online site that helps users organize offline meetings, and which was instrumental in the evolution of his own presidential candidacy in 2004.
Dean also believes YouTube was responsible for the Democrats winning control of Congress in 2006. “There’s no way George Allen loses that campaign without YouTube,” he said, referring to the racial slur made by the Virigina senator.
Social networking — noted for its popularity among younger generations — was to thank for much of Obama’s success in the polls. “The 2008 election was the first in the lifetime of anyone in this room that more people under 35 voted than people over 65,” Dean observed.
And it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon. When the Iranian government cut Internet access after the turbulent presidential election last month, protesters turned to cell phones and Twitter to broadcast information and messages to the world. The events sparked debate in Iran “about how much leeway to give people,”Dean said.
In China, he explained, “They are developing a feedback loop, it matters to them what people in the villages think. They understand they have to let up a little bit if they want to join modern world in terms of their economy.”
“It does force other societies to evolve,” Dean declared.
As a physician and author of “Howard Dean’s Real Prescription for Health Care Reform,” the Governor shared his thoughts on technology’s potential impact in this sphere. His prognosis for technology and health care? Good over the long run, but over the short run, “very ugly.” Adoption won’t be easy, he said.
The audience laughed knowingly when Dean shared his “experience with IT”: “It takes twice as long, it’s twice as expensive and you have to do it twice.”
Dean also offered insight on the controversial “Blue Dogs” — the conservative Democrats in the House blocking the current health care reform bill.
“The Republicans aren’t playing,” he explained. “In the absence of that, you have to have debate. The conservative Democrats are doing that for us. Is it legitimate to question how much this costs? Absolutely.”
In the midst of the scuffle, Dean has his eye on the prize. “As long as you have the public option that’s real reform.”