"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Days Four and Five: Eye of the Revolver

There's a lot of positivity around here, a happy kind of soldering spirit. It's light in the house of Dean, even as the campaign endures a storm of attacks from all quarters. I imagine this must be what it's like to really do something revolutionary.

And make no mistake, this campaign is revolutionary. Howard's a pretty moderate candidate -- a moderate and a pragmatic and one who speaks his mind -- but the underlying promise of the campaign, the driving force behind it, is the outlaw promise of returning agency to individual citizens and communities. The movement is much bigger and wider than Dean; but it's a real thing. People are dying for lack of meaning, and the powers that be don't have a solution because this dearth of purpose is the basis for their xanadu. There's a lot of money riding on top of all this anomie.

Don't believe me? Look at how a line forms between people who "get it" and people who don't. The comments on Dean's blog sound like Bob Dylan circa "Don't Look Back."

dylan: you can't understand me, and you probably never will
reporter: why is that, bob?
dylan: because you work for time magazine man!

At least that's how I remember it. My historical reading says Dylan's insistence on a communication breakdown was about one generation being remarkably more free than another. What we're dealing with here is its own animal, but the underlying rubric is the same. The times, they are a-changing. Wake up and smell the coffee. The revolution will not be televised.

We're at a watershed. I think we've been at a watershed for the past ten years and just haven't wanted to deal with it. The question on the table is whether we (like you and me and all the other people with social security numbers, and all the other people who have governments) are going to be clients or producers of the national community we call the state. Consumers or participants, that's the choice. Are we going to take responsibility for our own lives, our friends, our neighborhoods and our country upon ourselves, or are we going to go to sleep?

Agency, accountability and consent are the underpinnings of good community. Individuals who have control over their lives, are aware of this control can make a conscious choice to be a part of something, to participate. When more than two people do this, you have the potential for good community.

But when people are deprived of this, negative things happen. That's what the lumpy atomized, anomic TV-fed bourgeois represent: people who don't recognize their own power, who can't think of anything better to do. Ahh look at all the lonely people. That's also what a ghetto is by the way; it's a bad community, one that no one chooses to be a part of, but which ends up affecting their lives anyway. Both these phenomena are tough nuts to crack.

This is what the movement is about; autonomy and community and transparency and trust, all key source ingredients for peace and love if you ask me.

Something big is going to happen. Ten years from now things are either going to be much better in the world, or much worse, and the tipping point is about whether or not enough of us decide to unplug themselves from the matrix and start reclaiming the dignity of their own experience. Whether we start dancing. Whether we find our voice, and learn to listen at the same time.

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Days Two/Three: Hitting Stride

I haven't been taking good notes the past few days, shame shame shame. However, as you may have seen, I have good reason. So pardon a perhaps more sparse posting.

As Britt and I are discovering, there's a very thin line around here between who staff and volunteer. It appears to be defined by pay, business cards and @deanforamerica.com email addresses, but not by very much else. Our first day were we sat in on a meeting for the record-breaking conference call initiative, and our idea for how to brand it was immediately picked up over and above the one they'd been working with. Now we (the volunteers with the idea) are talking with volunteer flash people about getting something to promote it.

Turf does not exist here, only goals. It's unbelievable how sweet the bullshit to purpose ratio is, and the sunset views from campaign HQ are awesome.

I've been laying my experience = fantasy + reality trip on a few people out here; Samantha from the NYT magazine, Zephyr, and anyone else within earshot. Hunter referred me to Kubla Kahn, by Coleradge, which is great, just so you know it's not all politics out here.

There's a trinity at work here in Burlington. A fact based candidate running a transparent campaign driven by social networks; a message that appeals to the angels of our better nature, to relationships and community; a cause that could be more deeply laden with meaning for those who become involved... it's the mind/body/spirit trifecta made politic, and it's a hell of a thing to steep in for a week.

By the by, if this sounds like fun and you want to come play, you should do it. Most of the staff just showed up -- pilgrims of a new patriotic sort from New York, Alabama, Texas. They made themselves useful, indispensable even; eventually many of them were offered official titles, if not sterling salaries. Back when I decided to get involved I sent my resume in to the campaign, told them if I had a trust fund I would show up for free. Some people actual do have the means to do this, and have. You should too if you can, even just for a week. It's not an experience to miss.

One of the ostensible purposes of the visit for both Britt and I is to set an example for others to follow. I won't likely be back for a long while, if ever, but Britt's clearly got the bug. He's talking about staying on a while longer and coming back next week.

While I'm excited about upcoming adventure in California, I don't really want to go anywhere. This is kind of like paradise. Last night most of the campaign was out for drinks for CoCo's birthday -- excellent hip-hop DJ at a very NYC-like bar -- and I realized with some glee that although we'd all been spending all day and night working together, we were still jazzed to have each other's company. It was human and fun and the kind of thing I'd like to do more often.

So I'm hitting my stride here, finding my voice; I just sat in on Trippi's afternoon conference call with reporters, along with a lot of the staff, everyone passing looks, supplying Joe with details when needed, laughing when laughable things were said. It felt like he was talking about my campaign. Ownership, baby. It's time to take it to the next level. I'm sad that tomorrow's my last day.

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DeanSpace Beta Launches

We launched DeanSpace, so maybe I can blog a little more now. I spent some time talking to a reporter from the NYT magazine yesterday (see Britt's page for pictures n'stuff) and I was all messaged out.

But I finally fenagled a link from the Dean Blog to outlandish. Gotta pick yr battles.

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Day One: Learning The Ropes

I'm a low man on the totem pole. Unknown and largely in the way as I wait to fill out the necessary paperwork to authorize myself as a volunteer. Dean's running out front and they're just now getting the idea that they aught to keep track of who walks in off the street to lend a hand. It's still coming together.

But access was solved -- physical and network -- and I found myself in a cushioned chair at the end of a cul-de-sac of tech workers, just me and my laptop and the mission. I started drawing up a TODO list and soaking up the atmosphere.

It's a turbulent and young organization, DFA. Smaller than I imagined, dense and hot and brightly lit. The staff is lean, and they work for peanuts. I make my first mis-step early when I give the IT guy in charge of handing out wireless encryption keys a touch of the hassle. He's got a Sabbath t-shirt and ear-stretching rings, so I figure it's cool but I came on a little strong -- something I've been doing a lot since Burning Man -- and we got off on the wrong foot. But humor is a good salve for all wounds, and the atmosphere is so positive that the tension dissipates quickly. We're working here.

Here's the thing about the people who work for Dean: in their eyes it's their campaign. This is true of a lot of the grassroots too, but the sentiment is strong here, well thought out. These people see their purpose as saving the country, and the Doctor/Governor is their vehicle for doing this. We all love Dean, but he's a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. He knows this too, and he likes it. It's in his stump speech.

DFA is modeling a networked organization structure. People have autonomy, and they are charged with making their projects happen not by going to a manager and requisitioning resources, but by convincing other people in the office to help them. On an individual level it can be fragmented and distracting, a true multitasking environment, but the output of the organization vs. its burn rate of people and capital speaks for itself. This buzzword is a dead horse, but there's synergy in the air, the divine stimulant of Purpose keeping the whole works thundering forward.

At one point my cell phone wandered off. Zack took it to talk to David Weinberger, then handed it to Zephyr, who I gather gave it to Matt. Two hours later I was wondering where my phone was and what the bill might be; all part of the fun of an ambitious and relatively egoless organization.

It's 2:30am and it's time to go grab some sleep. The senior web team is still at it. Gray, a shining example of humanity who drove up from Birmingham Alabama and stayed, is drinking Yerba Mate. Some of the finance people are still working hard. The late shift has a magical quality to it, the workaholic equivalent to the power curve of a drinking binge. There's a lull around dinner time, but even the pros stick around until midnight.

The team here is bright and strong and amazingly pure of heart. People from the internet send them food. Young reporters struggle to wrap their minds around the reasons why people end up here, how people can meet through an unsolicited email and end up taking a 300 mile road trip to work at a labor of love. I sit here tippy-tapping into my laptop as the campaign swirls on around me in a state of grace. They're doing it the right way, and it's working.

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Day Zero

For this week, Britt Blaser and I are spending our lives volunteering as IT Angels at Dean Campaign HQ in Burlington. We hope to make this something of a tradition. We'll be co-blogging on the experience.

It was a late Saturday night in Brooklyn. We had BBQ and plenty of beer in the name of a free Eddie Cordova, and it was a chance for me to see a bunch of heads I probably wouldn't have otherwise run into. Whisky and beef and Brooklyn-brewed beer. My ostensible home is in disarray; no bedding, hot and humid, littered with the detritus of cross-country travel. It was a stagnant night of deep chemical sleep. The point was that I was kind of wrinkled when Britt swung by to pick me up in the morning.

We were headed up to Burlington, Dean country, looking to spend the week lending technological mojo to the campaign any way they could take it. It's adventure camp for wonks, and a good chance for me to make some contacts before I jet west to start work in earnest on Music For America.

The drive was bucolic, Britt and I swapping stories about our upbringings, finding more common ground than you might expect considering the generation gap between us. The weather came and went and he told me his best war story, crash-landing a burning C-130 full of white phosphorus at an airstrip 20 miles from the Cambodian border. We talked about the lost art of conversation and girls and doing things with great velocity.

Britt drives like a pilot and a rich man in the best possible sense, taking the shoulder to send us off on an adventure through Hartford, the kind of driving that creates drama and excitement and a sense that anything's possible. Life's yours for the taking, and asking permission is for kids; this is ok because we are honorable people. Reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson's outlaw credo. He's an American spirit, and a weird little dude. I enjoyed to road trip quite a bit.

Rolling up through central Mass and into Vermont the scenery stirred up some memories, romance and youth and a clean kind of being. I had a couple girlfriends who I saw up here, a unfiltered crush and pure puppy love, the last of my solid gold watches. I put me in a wistful mood, remembering old music and things done in haste.

As we got close to Burlington, the sky opened up in one of those humbling moments, nature flexing her artistic muscle with a rich palette of sky and sun and granite and green growing things. Coming from the west coast I felt we were cresting a hill and running down to the sea, but of course it was just Burlington around the bend.

And what a place it is. A beautiful city. We checked in to the hotel, small town friendly vibes only partially masked by the Marriot management overlay. First stop was Campaign HQ, buzzing with a kind of eager newsroom mojo at 8:30pm on a Sunday night. It reminded me of my best times working on my award winning High School Newspaper, all work and no ego and fun people with principles.

We got a tour and went to dinner and then went to one of the DFA crash pads -- the many houses in Burlington taken over by DFA staff -- to catch K street with the Gov. on HBO. The show's a little too pomo for it's own good, Soderburgh even further blurring the line between political reality and entertainment news. It's a neat experiment from a structural point of view, and I can watch James Carville all day long, but it might be a little too smart and meaningless to succeed.

After that we're tired, and Monday is looming. Britt and I make our winding way back to the hotel, and I attend to some personal phone calls and the evning wound down. This week is going to be exciting.

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