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I’ll have the oolong, with a splash of open source

Jonathan Rauch wrote in the National Journal Saturday on the “radical decentralization” of the tea party. A “Tea Party Patriots coordinator and co-founder” talks about it this way:“I use the term open-source politics. This is an open source movement…. The movement as a whole is smart.”

No doubt, this has and will continue to be a bandwagon meme equating decentralization automatically with open source and by extension some form of novelty. Rauch, to his credit, focuses more on the decentralization aspect and acknowledges the “yes and no” answer to the novelty question.

We’ve been through this comparison before with the Howard Dean campaign.

Here’s an article from November 2003 based on discussions with Dean’s campaign manager: “The metaphor of choice…is ‘open-source politics’: a two-way campaign in which the supporters openly collaborate…and in which the contributions of the ‘group mind’ prove smarter than that of any lone individual.”

Which leads to some questions. Was the Dean campaign and is the tea party both open source (and does that give us any insight into their thinking), or is one more open than the other? And, what does it actually mean to be doing politics the open source way?

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