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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ari Berman, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics

Welcome Ari Berman, and Host Joe Trippi.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics

Joe Trippi, Host:

At the beginning of 2003 – when I was packing my bags to head up to Burlington – you would have been hard pressed to find many people outside Vermont who had ever heard of Howard Dean…and even fewer who would have believed that our unlikely presidential campaign would ignite a movement that would turn the political world on its head and re-energize a moribund Democratic party towards a comeback in the White House and both houses of Congress.

In Herding Donkeys Ari Berman tells a compelling story about how the Dean campaign sparked a grassroots resurgence and laid the foundation for the Democrats’ improbable success over the next 4 years. He captures some of the untold stories from the 2004 campaign and Howard Dean’s years at the helm of the DNC where, despite the ire of Rahm Emanual and other establishment Democrats, his 50-state strategy helped lead the Democrats out of the desert and back into the majority.

In his book, Berman brings you back to 2003, before you had ever heard of Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, to show how the campaign pioneered the use of the Internet in campaign fundraising and organizing – bringing new people and energy to the party:

“On August 23, 2003, Howard Dean’s campaign had just embarked on the frenetic Sleepless Summer Tour—ten cities in four days across 6,147 miles, raising a quick million via its campaign blog in the process. You could watch the dollar amount inch upward in real time on a giant baseball bat posted on the website.… The campaign was going to deplane for an hour in Boise and was expecting “fifty people or so,” [press aide Matt Vogel] said. When Dean landed on the tarmac, 450 people were waiting to greet him, holding blue DEAN FOR AMERICA signs. A social worker named Delmar Stone could barely contain his exuberance. “The last time I was this excited about someone who could change the world,” Stone said, “was when I heard about Jesus!”

Dean was not quite the Messiah, but he had been on quite a roll. He’d just graced the covers of Time and Newsweek and would soon shatter Bill Clinton’s three-month fund-raising record by amassing an army of small donors over the Internet, using that money to air TV ads in six states a full five months before voters in Iowa went to their first-in-the-nation caucus. [read more]

Though the grassroots movement our campaign built didn’t ultimately send him to the White House, Dean knew that he had tapped into something powerful that could transform politics as we knew it. His 50-state strategy at the DNC – which was ridiculed by many at the time – led to huge gains in 2006 and set the table for Obama’s success in 2008.

The progressive grassroots of the party re-energized by the Dean campaign and the Dean Chairmanship of the Democratic Party rose up and embraced Obama’s campaign — worked their hearts out and helped deliver him to victory. But even while Obama’s campaign honed the grassroots tactics that won him the White House, some in Obama’s inner circle – most notably Rahm Emanual – treated the progressive grassroots with contempt. With Rahm at Obama’s side in the White House, Berman tells how the Obama administration lost a major opportunity to rally them in support of the President’s agenda.

With Democrats now facing the possibility of another few years in the desert, Berman leaves us asking whether the grassroots energy that the Dean campaign sparked can be re-ignited – from the ground up – across the country.

For more about the book before our live chat at 5pm ET, check out the website where you’ll find excerpts and reviews.

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Joe Trippi

Joe Trippi

About Joe

Joe Trippi – heralded on the cover of The New Republic as the man who “reinvented campaigning” – is widely recognized as one of America’s leading and most influential political strategists.

Born in California, Trippi began his political career working on Edward M. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1980. His work in presidential politics continued with the campaigns of Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt, Howard Dean and, most recently, John Edwards.

Trippi has run and consulted on numerous presidential, senate, congressional, gubernatorial and mayoral races. These include the successful campaigns of U.S. Senator Alan Cranston of California, Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, Governor Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Congressman Tim Holden of Pennsylvania.

In 2004, as the National Campaign Manager for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, Trippi pioneered the use of online technology to organize what became the largest grassroots movement in presidential politics. Through his innovative use of the Internet for small-donor fundraising, “Dean for America” raised more money than any Democratic presidential campaign to that point – all with donations averaging less than $100.

According to The Atlantic magazine, Trippi’s influence on Democratic Party politics has been profound and lasting:

“The small-dollar Internet donor base attracted by Dean and flogged relentlessly by Trippi has transformed the party’s fundraising. Every single campaign uses Trippi-patented tactics to raise money. The men and women Joe Trippi cultivated on Dean’s staff have stormed the gates and occupy positions of power in major party and campaign offices.”

In 2008, Trippi signed on with Senator John Edwards’ presidential bid as a senior advisor, focusing on messaging, Internet strategy and online engagement. He was also responsible for producing the campaign’s television spots, which were widely applauded as “innovative” and “highly creative” and among the best spots of the 2007-2008 election cycle.

Trippi also has an extensive international resume. In 1993, he worked for then PASOK leader Andrea Papandreou’s successful campaign of Prime Minister of Greece, as well as for his son, George Papandreou, in 2007. Trippi advised former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his successful bid for a third term in 2005. In 2006, he worked for Romano Prodi on his winning race for Prime Minister of Italy. In 2007, Trippi consulted on text messaging strategies to the opposition Action Congress (AC) Party in Nigeria.

In addition to his political work, Trippi has consulted with a number of leading corporations including MasterCard, Toyota, DaimlerChrysler, SES Americom, LabCorp, IBM, Lionsgate Films, BestBuy, MSNBC, Wave Systems, and Progeny Linux Systems. Trippi is especially acclaimed within the technology community. In 2004 he won Wired Magazine’s Rave Award for his use of innovative technology in politics. Leading Internet companies, from Yahoo!, to Google, to Bebo invite him to speak to their employees and affiliates.

Joe Trippi has been profiled in The New York Times, The New Republic, Fast Company, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The New York Times Magazine. He is a CBS News political analyst and former Harvard University Fellow.

Trippi is the author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything,” the story of how his revolutionary use of the Internet combined with an impassioned, contagious desire to overturn politics-as-usual grew into a national grassroots movement – and changed the face of American politics forever.