No longer. Now anyone with a Web site and a server, a satellite transponder and about $100 million can have — in a matter of months — much of what the political parties have taken generations to build.
Technology, of course, has changed politics before. Television changed the two parties, for example, but it didn’t make the parties obsolete. In fact, in the day of Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, television strengthened the two-party duopoly (the economist’s term for a shared monopoly), as only those two parties had the resources to use it competitively.
But the Internet doesn’t reinforce the parties — instead, it questions their very rationale. You don’t need a political party to keep the ball rolling — you can have a virtual party do it just as easily. And that’s what Howard Dean has done.
Be sure to see the predictions at the end of the piece. Out here in California, a “third party” candidate was successful in winning the governorship — through a recall process — something he’d never have won through the traditional party process. Does this ever happen for the presidency?