The Revolution will not be televised – A review

By Henri Makembe on 11.05.09

Shortly after I turned my last paper for school, I wanted to pick up a book that had nothing to do with business, ethics, finances or leadership — which had constituted the bulk of my reading for the better part of the last two years.  I knew I wanted to immerse into  how political campaigns are organized, ran and won – at both the national and local level. However, the 2008 presidential election was too recent and none of the inside players had published in-depth account of the operations.  That being said, David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, recently released his book – The Audacity To Win. The 2000 presidential election, with its supreme court decision, was a bit of an anomaly.   And let’s face it, I don’t remember the 1998 presidential election and I was not yet in the country for the 1992 election.  That’s left 2004 election.   The Dean campaign immediately came to mind because of their use of the Internet during the campaign. Additionally aside from Ted Kennedy being the first elected official with a web page and McCain raising $1 million online in 2000, the Dean campaign has been widely credited has with birth of Internet politics and advocacy and many of current players in the field are from that campaign.  Having seen him speak and followed him on twitter, I decided on a Joe’s Trippi’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

The book effectively chronicles Trippi’s love for technology and politics and how the two finally came together for Dean’s improbable presidential run.  Filled with humor,  the book begins with Trippi’s earl days as an activist on the San Jose State University  and goes through his experience working four presidential campaigns prior to Dean’s.  The reader can witness Trippi evolve as a political operative (and become more cynical) who manages to bring together all the lessons he has learned over the years to the Dean campaign.  Without a doubt, the most interesting part of the book revolves around the Dean campaign.  Trippi provides a candid insider account of what went on daily in the Burlington HQ as well as online.  He goes over high and lows, the success and failures – both online and offline and ultimately leaving the campaign. All of it, very interesting.  Knowing that readers would looking for the recipe of success online,  Trippi’s provides the following points

  1. Be first – The first comer has a heard start on building a community.
  2. Keep it moving / Don’t be static  – The Internet is a fluid medium and your presence should should be organic and flowing.
  3. Use an authentic voice – The Internet is not the place to be safe
  4. Tell the truth – The Internet has an inherent transparency.
  5. Build a community – Get people involved!
  6. Cede Control –  Your supporters are smarter than you.  Given them a chance.
  7. Believe again

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It provided me with a behind the scene context of the 2004 election.  Having read Matt Bai’s The Argument,  I’d say this book is a good pre-cursor to that one because it helps frame meteoric rise MoveOn.orgDailyKos and the political blogosphere.  One disappointment that I have after reading the book is Trippi’s blog itself.  There is a disconnect between what he writes in his book about the Internet and blogging how he runs his blog.  These days, his blog is a collection quotes from articles that he read or  promotion of recent works (and sometime speaking engagements).  It lacks original content, thought leadership, and forward thinking especially for someone who The New Republic called “the man who reinvented campaigning” and GQ dubbed “the new Carville”.  Despite this, I still recommend the book. It’s worth the read.