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Moore's Lore

October 28, 2004
The Unlikely VoterEmail This EntryPrint This Entry
Posted by Dana

I spent 90 minutes at the local courthouse the other day, waiting on line to vote. For me the election is over.

So I hope you don't mind if I spend a few moments this morning theorizing about what happened, and why.

It was explained to me back in May, 2003, by Zephyr Teachout (the lady to the right).

The key to victory, she said, was to turn out the unlikely voter.

The unlikely voter seldom shows up, which is what makes him or her unlikely. Their identity changes from election to election. Different groups of unlikely voters predominate, depending on the issues of the day. Back in 1992 they were called "soccer moms," and two years later "angry white men." This isn't because soccer moms didn't show up in 1994, or angry white men didn't show in 1992. It's because millions of people whose interests and issues fit those stereotype showed up in those years - these were shorthands political pros used to describe them at the time.

Unlikely voters aren't picked up by polls. Unlikely voters, their numbers and feelings, are always a surprise. But in retrospect we always slap our hands to our heads wondering why we didn't "get it" earlier.

Zephyr was working in an out-of-the-way office park in South Burlington, Vermont, for a barefoot man with a Diet Pepsi jones named Joe Trippi. Joe, a political idealist roughly my age, believed that 2004's Unlikely Voter would be young, and so let young people like Zephyr go looking for them.

They found them on the Internet.

My guess is that Time Magazine will call 2004 "The Year of the Blog." The Man of the Year may be an anonymous blogger behind-a-keyboard (like me), but I'd rather they just select one who stood out, who symbolized the year just past.

For Time Man of the Year 2004 I nominate Markos Moulitas (left), alias Kos. He's a Chicago native chased out of his family's country, El Salvador, in 1984. He's in his mid-30s, he's a veteran, he's a Californian, and he's a political activist. He came to South Burlington a few months after I left, and he stayed for a good long while.

Kos went to school on the Blog that Zephyr helped build, Blogforamerica. He learned, over time, that the software that blog used didn't scale properly. It could not handle the traffic needed to scale the Dean blog's intimacy to the proportions needed in a general election.

But he also understood that technology alone wouldn't answer. He knew that the key to success was enabling interaction. So when he returned to his home, after working with the Dean campaign, he tossed out the Movable Type software his site had been using and replaced it with Scoop, from Kuro5hin.

Scoop scales.

Kos did something else, something Joe Trippi himself had done, and which he later taught. He "let go." That is, he didn't try to be a seer, or a sage, he didn't stand above his audience. He wrote, and let his audience comment. He let his audience write, and let others comment on that, in a Scoop innovation called "diaries." When a diary was good he kept a link to it on his main page for some time, and when it was very, very good the entry was "promoted" to the center of the blog.

I knew Kos had it right when he went home, to El Salvador, this summer and the site didn't seem to miss him.

Finally, as his site scaled, Kos brought in the people and tools needed to keep up. He bought servers, he bought bandwidth, and when people "rushed to the rail" and hit him like a freight train over some news event, he quietly turned subsidiary features off, in order to keep the site operating.

The results speak for themselves. The audience for DailyKos now approaches that of a big city newspaper. When Kos asked his audience to support a set of candidates, dubbed the "Kos Dozen" (although there ended up being more of them), his audience responded. He became a power in the Democratic Party. But he never forgot that he was, in the end, just a blogger, that he was just a channel through which millions of Unlikely Voters were becoming Political Animals.

He never forgot what Howard Dean had said, over-and-over, through his unlikely rise and unlikelier fall.

You have the power.

And now, you do.

God bless America, God bless Markos Moulitas, and God bless the Unlikely Voter.

Victory is assured.

Category: Politics


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