Transcription – Joe Trippi Interview

Q:              Well, I wonder, too — I mean, in addition to the lawyers’ lawyerly concerns, was there a sense of, if you link up to, then you’re sort of ceding a certain amount of control, because things will be done [00:40:00] through the Dean website, linking to that, and that’ll somehow come back and reflect —

TRIPPI:       Well, no —

Q:              — adversely?

TRIPPI:       — not inside our cam– Howard got the internet.  No, he w– he was not one of the guys saying don’t do that, or don’t — you know, telling the lawyer… I mean, he would tell the lawyers, “Find a way to do it.”  You know, he wasn’t, uh — by st– he still wanted to make sure everything was legal and OK.  I mean, that wasn’t — you know, it wasn’t — un-careful about it.  But he was not — he — Howard always got what we were trying to do, and was enthusiastic about it.  I don’t mean that.  But the other mechanism — the Federal Election Commission — the FEC lawyers who — the — every campaign’s got to have them.  And who did a great job, but just had — they — you’re trying to do this newfangled thing, and they’d never heard of it before.  But the other campaigns — which was good for us — [00:41:00] thought that it was ceding control.  They did not want to do that. And, in fact, that — I think that’s wh– frankly, again, another one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost in 2008.  They had this impulse to not turn over that — any control over to anybody — to not decentralize.  The Obama campaign found — one, had better tools than we did.  But they got it.  And they — and all — frankly, a lot of them were — Joe Rospars and others were people who worked on the Dean campaign.  The Clinton campaign had no one that I know of from the Dean campaign.

Q:              When —

TRIPPI:       So…

Q:              — when, when you s– put in the link to, what was going on, on, already, as far as the Dean camp (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)?

TRIPPI:       Uh, no, there wasn’t much going on with  Jerome Armstrong, who had been a blogger for MyDD, which was a very influential — for me — to me, there were a couple of blogs. [00:42:00] His was one that I had been reading quite a bit. And we got into a huge fight.  I can’t remember.  I had said something about a state, commenting on something he had blogged about, and he ended up blogging that I was an idiot and didn’t know what I was talking about, and that’s not how Iowa worked, or something.  And I can’t remember.  But we got into this fight.  I often say he was the first guy to — when any blogger today, calls me an idiot, I go, “Get in line.  Jerome Armstrong was the first.” But he had mentioned… Finally, we had — because we had been commenting back and forth on his blog, he f– one day, mentioned, “Hey, Joe, you should check out… I know we don’t agree on a lot of stuff, but I respect you.  You should check out this site —  I think it might be really cool, if you ever — [00:43:00] if you end up doing anything.”  Because I’d — by then, people were starting to get that I was helping Dean.  And so, I went to the site, checked it out, and it was, like, oh, man, this is — I mean, that — now I’m thinking Gary Hart, concentric circles, you know, the whole thing.  This is it.  It — thanks, Jerome.  You’re a genius.  And as soon as I got — the first thing I wanted to do — the very first thing I wanted to do the day I sign– you know, s– went up to Burlington, was get — let’s get going.  And as soon as we did, it was like wildfire.  I mean, we had something like a thousand — over a thousand meetups happening nationwide, hundreds of people attending them.  I mean, we went to — we would come up with the idea of let’s just surprise one of them by having Howard show up, knowing that those people would all be screaming on that Howard just showed up at the [00:44:00] New York one.  And we didn’t tell them we were coming, because we wanted that energy there, that… People started — and we’d stop them — from that point on, we’d stop — we’d plan on when’s the next meetup, and we would just show up at, you know, where — we were in Indiana that day, we’d go to a meetup in Indiana.  Wherever we were on the road that day, we would go to a — we would stop in at a meetup.  And so, people started to get the notion, “Hey, if I show up, who knows?  Even Howard might show up.”  I’d go.  I mean, diff– so, we kind of built the whole thing.  They built it, but then we would — we learned how to — you know, how to sort of engage people and get them to realize the campaign was — you know, took meetups seriously.  We’d do things like, I would do a conference call into every meetup, so there was — you’d have [00:45:00] somebody with a speakerphone or a phone with a mic to it, because — you know, or however they could figure out how to wire us in, or a landline and they’d call into a conference-call number and I’d call in.  And we’d have, every meetup, give them a report on the campaign, or Howard would call in.  And so, we just — the meetup phenomenon became — I mean, they had just launched, I think, maybe six months, a year before us.

Q:              How did Meetup work?  Because I’m not sure everybody today will remember that.

TRIPPI:       Oh, it’s huge out there today.  My mom goes to an over-50 meetup, and I go — I’m like, “Mom, I…”  You know, she emailed me saying, “Hey, I just went to this over-50 meetup.”  And I was like… She goes, “It’s really interesting.  It’s really fun.”  And I was like, “Mom, you know I kind of had something to do with, you know, helping Meetup get going.”  “No, I didn’t.” [00:46:00] Where was she?  (laughs)  Anyway, the — it — basically, you put in your zip code and whatever you’re interested in — knitting, or Howard Dean — and it would tell you that there was a meetup happening — a meeting at a — usually at a — some kind of public building.  Not necessarily a public government building, but — I mean, like the library — but it could be a community center, it could be a bar.  We had — we restricted it to not — try to make it not be bars, but it’s — or, you know, because of young people and stuff.  But it was — it’s just the way the site was set up.  And you’d come, and you — there’d be all these other people who had signed up that way too.  And you’d have your first meeting, and then you’d have another one [00:47:00] each week or month. And what was interesting is, I had read James MacGregor Burns’s book on leadership, in which one of the — you know, he talks about transactional leadership — which I, frankly, think we’ve got way too much of in politics right now.  I mean, that’s — basically, both parties are really good at transactional pol– leadership:  “I’ll give you a tax cut for your vote”; “I’ll give you — I’ll do this deal”; “How about free tuition, tax credits for your vote?”; whatever.  And most of the problems we’ve got today can’t — you can’t do a transaction to get out of it.  You’re not going to transact your way out of the debt.  But he — one of the reasons — one of the (inaudible) he said you recognize transformational leadership is when somebody who did not know they were going to be a leader yesterday show up and take and take leaderships — to become leaders.  Well, Meetup — [00:48:00] one of the things I recognized after the very first meetups were, we were creating — we were transformational leadership.  Why?  Because a hundred people showed up at this meetup for Dean, and somebody had to go up to the front of that room who did not know, before they showed up at that meeting, that they were going to become the leader of the Dean movement in that community, or at that meeting, and then go on.  And we had thou– we were doing a thousand of these meetings a week, and every one of them, somebody — we didn’t designate anybody.  They all came to the room.  They all were for Howard Dean.  They all wanted to help him.  And somebody had to go up there and say, “Come to order.  What are we doing to talk about?  What do we want to do for Howard?”  And then, that person, generally, went on to lead the campaign in that area.  So, it was a pretty amazing thing.  In fact, a lot of those people [00:49:00] — those meetup leaders became people — politically active people who work today, whether it be for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or another candidacy, or a congressional candidate.  Some of them, I’m sure, are running for office today.  So, it’s — it was a —, I think, was a really important ingredient in the campaign.  And I think became kind of a forbearer of how you can organize in the future, too.  I mean, how you — one of the big issues was, how do you take all these people sitting at home in the pajamas — as the other campaigns used to… You know, “They’re in their pajamas talking about Howard Dean.  Great.”  How do you get them from, you know, sitting in front of their screen, out into the real world, doing something — knocking on a door or talking to their friends.  What the other campaigns didn’t realize was, [00:50:00] no, they were talking to their friends online. But, yeah, Meetup moved it off online into the community, into the neighborhoods.  So, that was pretty important.