Back in November, I'd had the privilege of having coffee with Elizabeth Edwards and a small group of power geeks and bloggers in Carrboro to talk about internetworking strategies.
The Edwards campaign is on its way to exploiting the resources of the internet in ways never yet seen in a presidential campaign. Political strategist Zack Exley, director of online organizing and communications for Kerry-Edwards in 2004 and, prior to that, one of the creators of MoveOn.org, put it this way back in June:
. . . [Edwards] speaks explicitly to the members of his "online community" as though he knows them -- as though he genuinely appreciates them.
I could be cynical and wonder how hard Edwards, the most talented politician in America, has to try not to sound like a politician. But I know from the Kerry campaign that both he and Elizabeth Edwards take this online stuff seriously. I'm convinced that this is a simple case of John Edwards understanding that there is an enthusiastic base out there who supports him and his anti-poverty fight. He seems to genuinely want to reach out, thank them, and let them in on what he's up to.
A continuous stream of emails and YouTubes is not going to do it alone. There's the matter of his message, what he stands for, do we believe him. (Also the matter of reaching the millions not on the internet, as Zack has noted in another context.) I want to believe him. I want to believe he has the courage to stick to his principles when it comes to health care, serious approaches to ending poverty, the whole populist agenda he's promoting, in addition to Iraq and foreign policy. Will he?
On the conference call, previewing the announcement he will make this morning, he said,
This will be a campaign built from the ground up, which means all of you are critical getting this message out. . . . We don’t want this to be a situation where everybody is listening to candidates make promises for two years, [with the hope] that someone will be elected who will bring change. . . . There's everything wrong with that. We shouldn’t wait. That’s what we’ve done in the past and change has not occurred. I want to help lead this grassroots movement to accomplish things starting right now. The idea that some politician is going to come along and save all of us is nonsense to begin with. We have to take charge. I feel very strongly about this. This will be the core message tomorrow. I will of course talk about two Americas, . . . but I’ll go on to say that what I’ve learned from last campaign is that it’s one thing to identify problems but the way to identify change is to take action. "Hopeful" is about tomorrow. We’re about today. We’re about taking action today. You all are critical to that. I appreciate all of you taking time to hear from me directly about this. I’ll be doing it on TV nationwide tomorrow morning. The truth is the net is critical and I want it to be a principal component, not an afterthought.
My Town Council colleague Mark Kleinschmidt is blogging from New Orleans. I hope he'll weigh in with a live report from Edwards' official launch this morning.