But had Meetup.com helped Dean reach new constituencies, such as African Americans, other ethnic communities, working class people, non-liberals? Not based on what I saw. Without the Internet, it was likely that Dean would find support among affluent, white, liberal professionals. With the Internet, he attracted affluent, white, liberal professionals who spent a lot of time online. Meetup.com was just a continuation of politics by other means.
But the Internet can't become a substitute for the gritty, difficult work of true grass-roots campaigning in diverse ethnic and socio-economic communities. As it stands, Meetup mostly preaches to the choir. And the quasi-religious New Economy hoopla I heard at the meetings shifts the focus away from the candidate and onto his organization. As a postmodernist would say, with Meetup the virtual becomes more real than the real. So while campaign staffers and political pundits relish Dean's considerable lead over his rivals in Meetup.com membership, there's no guarantee of real-world electoral success.
This accords with my experience at MeetUp. I think it's a problem. Thoughts?