Howard Dean, an American Neil Kinnock?
Dean was feted by the media before the nominations started, because of a vocal and visible core of supporters, but then disappeared as the votes were cast. IT Conversations has a very interesting recording of a speech byJoe Trippi who was responsible for Howard Dean's democratic party campaign at the recent O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. The Dean campaign looked to overthrow the system of interest group money purchasing television spots and presidential ads and so an election. He was inspired by the dialogue empowered by different web technologies.
Joe Trippi admitted that he was defeated by the system of lobbyists, money and traditional media. Dean started with 137,000 USD in the bank, 437 supporters nationally and a campaign team of seven. Dean did manage to use the Internet to get grassroots support to achieve an unparalleled amount of campaign funding from over 300,000 supporters.
The use of Meetup.com to get online supporters to meet up and then plan real world grassroots action over the water cooler, or over the garden fence was a key element of the campaign.
Trippi said that the internet community do not get the harsh realities of real world politics - money matters. It has also shone a spotlight on the established political machine of special interest groups.
Is Trippi the next Peter Mandelson? I don't know but his tactics have raised awareness of the web as an effective political tool. The key problem with the Internet based campaign is it couldn't respond to the repetition of negative television advertisements and negative new stories in the established media. So there is hope for PR people and ad agencies yet.
As an aside I would be interested to see how online grassroots lobbying communities like MoveOn (from the people that gave us the original Flying Toasters screensavers back in the day) will influence the political debate.