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Who Would Actually Support Mike Gravel to Win This Election?

Does the internet have the political heft it lays claim to?

Gravel seems to have developed a following online, but what would it take for him to actually become a serious contender for the Democratic nomination? In other words, can anybody become the President?

Ever since the baby boomers had to grow up under the fog of their parents depression and disapproval, succeeding generations have grown up with one message repeated to them over and over again: “You can do anything you want. You can be anybody.”

“Even the President, mommy?”

“Yes, dear, even the President.”

This moment from my childhood is brought to you courtesy of Presidential Primary candidate Mike Gravel. At 77, this guy is, by is own admission, flat broke, he's been out of politics for years, and the only thing he's really got going for him is the extreme and sometimes even shocking nature of his political positions. Just in case you haven't seen it, check him out at the South Carolina Presidential Debate in April.

This is a guy that really makes you believe your mother was right – anybody can be President. But how are you supposed to do this when you've got no money, and nobody knows who you are?

Now, if you're somebody like me, you might promptly reply, “Why, though the internet, of course!” And if the internet was, in fact, any indication of a candidate's popularity or at least, notoriety, amongst voters, this might be true. However, it seems like Gravel's success online is actually working to disprove the existence of the internet's political power.

What? No! How could you say such a terrible thing? Don't you know that news stories about Mike Gravel get Dugg to the top all the time? Don't you know that Gravel gets more web traffic than any of the Democratic frontrunners, according to these guys? And don't you know that the internet is the voice of the people, and that we will be heard, and our candidate will be pushed into the limelight?

Hmm, I'd love to say that I know it. But what about the indicators to the contrary:

  • Gravel's campaign fundraising goal if $70, 000; embarrassingly modest.
  • According to a feature in Salon last week, Gravel is barely recognized within the political community, let alone amongst voters.
  • Despite an emergence into the online public eye, he's got a hovering-around-1% slice of the voter pie. Wow! Thank you, internet!

Gravel's like many of the people running for various officae out there. He's short on cash, short on visibility, and he's a bit of a rogue. So what can a guy like this do to claw his way into the exclusive realm of frontrunner-ship?

He went on the Colbert Report and got, as he called it, “the Colbert bump.” I'm sure it would have been a bump, if Colbert's fans weren't the same people that are already buzzing about Gravel online.

Steven Colbert suggested that Gravel call himself “Gravel” (as in, the rocks) instead of “Gra-velle,” in order to pique voter enthusiasm. Good idea. I'd vote for this old-timey hard-bitten detective character. Mike Gravel, he always gets his man!

Once he starts calling himself Gravel (as in, the rocks), he's got to start making sure that everybody knows his cool name. After many attempts and failures at gaining office early in his career, Gravel finally cinched an Alaskan Senate seat by getting slick political commercials onto every TV in Alaska. This might not sound like a big deal, but at the time, it was pretty innovative.

Unfortunately, TV spots might be a bit too ritzy for the Gravel campaign budget at this point, and if the internet's not cutting it, he's going to have to rely on the old red, white, and blue. That's right – political campaign print advertising.

For Mike Gravel to become the President, he's going to have to blanket the entire country in posters, stickers, flyers, and available for download on his website. Supporters can print them out themselves, or send the designs to a cheap printer, and get out there and do some good old-fashioned postering in support of their favorite candidate.

Except that the hundreds of thousands of people visiting Gravel's website don't seem to be equally enthusiastic about actually getting out there and engaging in some activism. And therein, perhaps, lies the fatal flaw of internet advertising – clicking a button is one thing, getting out there and actually doing something to back up your politics is another thing entirely. Until we can actually vote online, the strength of internet politics may never be fully felt.


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