Q: Maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I’m starting to take a real interest in the next presidential election. I know Howard Dean’s been using the Web like a maestro, and I participated in that first mock election at MoveOn.org. Any other online resources you can recommend?
There’s still five-plus months to go till the Iowa caucus (iowacaucus.info), but the Web’s already chockablock with campaign news. Though Dean’s dueling sites (DeanforAmerica.com and HowardDean.tv) have gotten most of the ink so far, there are plenty of more objective URLs to peruse.
This being the Year of the Blog, it’s fitting that the best online coverage so far has been pieced together by emotive geek chroniclers. The most popular is WatchBlog (watchblog.com), edited by Brooklyn-based blogger Cameron Barrett (camworld.com). The site’s broken down into three columns—one for Democrats, one for Republicans, and one for third parties. Barrett and his editorial cohorts do a fine job of digging up some otherwise easy-to-miss stories; they also provide the occasional nonpartisan primer on hot-button issues, like school vouchers.
Also useful is the Campaign 2004 News Blog (campaign2004news.blogspot.com), which overcomes a creaky interface by providing tons of solid links. It’s through this blog that Mr. Roboto got hooked on PresidentElect.org, the self-proclaimed “Unofficial Homepage of the Electoral College.” The big attraction here is an electoral map, currently pitting Dubya versus Dean in an all-the-marbles showdown. (As of this writing, Bush has strategized his way to a hypothetical 321-to-217 electoral victory.) The bad news is that webmaster James R. Whitson is working on a massive overhaul, so updates will be less frequent for a few months.
You a betting man? If so, get thee over to the Iowa Electronic Markets (biz.uiowa.edu/iem/markets), a Wall Street for political junkies that lets you trade shares tied to a candidate’s fortunes. For example, if you think John Kerry’s due for a popularity bump, scoop up his stock while it’s on the ebb and wait for the magic to happen. Not only are the daily share prices an excellent indicator of who’s hot, but there’s money to be made; starting accounts can be opened for up to $500, and the whole shebang’s actually regulated by the federal government.
Money’s got a dark side, of course, especially when it gets all tied up in political games. Find the skinny at the Buying of the President 2004 (bop2004.org), run by the Center for Public Integrity. Tons of “gotcha!” exposés on candidates who’ve carried water for major contributors, as well as estimates of everyone’s net worth. It’s a little disheartening to learn that the majority of presidential candidates are millionaires.
If you’d like to kick in a few bucks to a favorite candidate, but worry that your five bucks’ll simply get lost in the shuffle, pay a visit to PayDemocracy.com. The idea here is for financial small fry to band together around a particular issue or candidate, and pool their tiny contributions into something grander (and therefore more likely to gain notice). Still in its infancy—the “Dean Billion Dollar Challenge” had raised just $5 as of last Wednesday—but it’s a cool idea. And it has some good links to places like the classic follow-the-money muckraker OpenSecrets.org.
A good catch-all to track is C-SPAN’s site (cspan.org; go to “2004 Vote”), with its video clips from the channel’s daily programming. Just itching to see Richard Gephardt stump in Dubuque? You’re in heaven here. True policy wonks should jump from C-SPAN to the Council on Foreign Relations (cfr.org), which archives every speech and statement the candidates make on foreign affairs.
Like the lottery, the presidential election is one of those “can’t win if you’re not in” propositions, so don’t harsh Mr. Roboto’s mellow by forgetting to register. Those who’d rather avoid the post office lines can simply visit vote.nyc.ny.us, print out a form, and snail-mail it. After performing your civic duty, how about rewarding yourself with a visit to the websites of fringe candidates? Rumor is that 2000 Natural Law Party Nominee John Hagelin (hagelin.org) may run again. Hard not to like a guy whose current résumé includes the job title “Minister of Science and Technology of the Global Country of World Peace.”
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