Everett Ehrlich starts out talking about the basic value of the Internet, which is that it makes it really cheap to gather and transmit information. I’d never heard of Ronald Coase, but the basic outlines of the theory as Ehrlich explains it make complete sense. The Internet allows very focused tribes to form very quickly, because one no longer has to look very hard to find other people who consider bowling shoes to be the pinnacle of modern art.
But that’s just the opener to the article. He goes on to suggest that Dean “is a third-party candidate using modern technology to achieve a takeover of the Democratic Party.” Whoa, say I. That makes a surprising amount of sense.
Perot demonstrated the power of the activist center. Dean may have figured out how to fuse that power with the machinery of an existing party. Nice trick if you can manage it. It certainly explains some of the hostility from the Democratic establishment.
William Weld was trying to pull off a similar trick a few years ago, except that he was planning on using the Northeast as his organizational base rather than the Internet. If he’d beaten Kerry in the Senate race, he’d be pulling centrist Democrats over into the Republican tent right now. Jesse Helms managed to torpedo that, though.
I don’t agree with Ehrlich’s long term predictions. The Conservative Party of New York has more or less folded, after all, so I wouldn’t count on them as a model. The pressures which push coalitions together in our Presidential politics go beyond the difficulties of access to information. His basic thesis, however, seems pretty sound.