Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is the True "Internet Candidate" Ron Paul or Barack Obama?

When it comes to the presidential election campaigns, bloggers have been most passionate in their support of two candidates - Ron Paul (R) and Barack Obama (D). But which one can thus far claim the title for the true "internet candidate"?

Ron Paul, while still relatively unknown to the majority of American voters, has unquestionably generated the most buzz in cyberspace. His website is the most visited among the candidates, he has been in the top ten search terms on for about six months (something that even Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan have failed to accomplish), and he recently shattered the record for most campaign donations collected online in a single day.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is more of a policy wonk when it comes to the internet. While not generating the same level of buzz as Ron Paul, and even at one point inciting his own online supporters, he has outlined a detailed proposal on "technology and innovation", including his positions on Net Neutrality, universal broadband, open government online, and much more. By and large, Obama's positions fall into near lockstep with the most cherished cyber-political ideologies.

Certainly, all of the candidates from both political parties have taken to internet campaigning, albeit with mixed results, yet these two clearly stand apart. So which is the true "internet candidate" of the presidential election?

If elected, Barack Obama would be most likely to make happy all of the netizens who care passionately about internet issues like Net Neutrality. However, the betting money is on Ron Paul going down in history as the true "internet candidate" of this election, based on his unprecedented grassroots support in cyberspace, and its stark contrast to his limited popularity in the unwired world. What Ron Paul is accomplishing in cyberspace will unquestionably be viewed as the model for online campaigning in future election cycles, just as Howard Dean's campaign in 2004, and, in that, Paul remains to be the real story.


At 8:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Two (pretty significant) points:

(1) Don't be fooled by Obama's support for Net Neutrality. It's a Trojan horse. Once the principle is set that the government is allowed to enact FAVOURABLE legislation, that's all they need to then - at some point - enact UNFAVOURABLE legislation. Such bad legislation, restricting our freedoms - AGAIN - will be sold on the basis of it's for our own good, and "You don't support the terrorists, do you?" and "You don't support paedophiles, do you?" But make no mistake, it will be OUR freedoms that will be taken. The BEST position to take here is actually offered by Dr Ron Paul: The government has no right to make ANY legislation, or to TAX the internet, in any way. The internet must be FREE, if WE are to be FREE.

(2) You seem to be making the assumption that Dr Paul is *USING* the internet. He's not, in that sense. It's his message that is what is important. The internet just allows his message to be spread, whereas it is otherwise restrained by the main-stream media. Other candidates copying his online efforts - be it this campaign or in the future - will make no difference as it is NOT what he is doing on site that is making the difference. It is his message that is inspiring people, and no sucky message will ever do that.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Ah. I just noted that you are doing your studies in "Internet Governance". It's perhaps not surprising, then, that you seem to consider Obama's Statist, regulation route a reasonable position. Please don't support such positions. Support LIBERTY: Support Ron Paul!

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Nomen -

To address your second point, I believe you're exactly right that it is Ron paul's message that has resonated with people, and not necessarily his explicit online campaign strategy. However, the fact that his overall support still hovers at only 5% nationally ought to say something, don't you think? So the real question is, what is it about Paul's message that resonates so strongly online, but not offline?

As to your first point, you claim that "the government has no right to make ANY legislation" regarding the internet. What makes you believe that? Local, national, and supranational governmental institutions have been, and should be, creating legislation applying to cyberspace ever since its inception. Our freedoms are not taken away simply because the rule of law exists. If that were the case, no environmental context, whether in real-space or cyberspace, has ever been free. Maybe you believe that, and maybe you can cite some philosophical treatises supporting the claim that freedom has never existed, but when examining the public policy issue of Net Neutrality being debated in the U.S. Congress, the fact remains that legislation does exist governing internet activity, and this, in and of itself, does not take away our freedoms.

Ultimately, my larger point was in defining what it means to be the "internet candidate" of this election. Is it based on candidate positions on internet issues, or is it based on who's online candidacy will be most remembered in historical terms?

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Regarding Ron Paul's low offline polling numbers, the answer is simple: the polls are wrong, and not accurately reflecting his true level of support. Now that's a big claim to make, but consider the methodology of each of the polls. When considering "Which Republican do you support most", many of the pollsters are only sampling from a population of *people that had formerly voted Republican, AND that have a landline.* Two points here: Dr Paul's message is truly unifying, attracting support from *across the political spectrum*. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, conservative, liberal left, right, up, down,...whatever. The message of Freedom is attractive to all. Are those people part of those polled? Also, Ron Paul's support base is spreading outwards from the younger set that are most internet-savvy, as they came across him first. His support is therefore strongest with youth. But what proportion of that strong youth support base actually have landline phones? Not many at all, I venture to say.

Plus, once you "get" what he is on about, there is *no way* you will not get out to actually vote. He will have 100% voting attendance. What is the conversion rate with other candidates, from expressing support, to actually voting? If they're lucky, I’d think perhaps 50%-60%. They just don't inspire the same passion that Ron Paul does, because the others are just More Of The Same. There's going to be a lot of very surprised people, many with egg on their face, when hard election data starts coming in.

He does have some fundamental problem with his polling numbers though. Much as you have heard of him, many still haven't. His name recognition is very low. And that's very deliberate, on account of the mainstream political parties, and the mainstream media. There is a deliberate shut-out going on. Consider this:
They don't want him there, because he will clean house. An Honest Man in the White House? Who ever heard of such things!
But his name is getting out there, regardless. The message of Freedom is spreading virally thanks to the enabling ability of the internet, and huge word of mouth, and grassroots support in the offline world. We WILL prevail - because we MUST prevail.

You say "Local, national, and supranational governmental institutions have been, and should be, creating legislation applying to cyberspace ever since its inception." Where is your case to prove your assertion "should be"? Just because they WANT to, and they THINK they SHOULD, doesn't make it right. And you never commented on my warning of it being a Trojan Horse, the thin-end of the wedge. What's to stop them - once they have assumed the right to regulate it - from restricting freedoms more blatantly? It's bad enough now that everything goes through the NSA:
You may not have seen the most egregious regulations yet, but you're kidding yourself if you don't think they're coming.

Regarding your larger issue: what any one candidate thinks on any one issue is of little to no consequence. It is a whole package you are getting. Ron Paul offers a package from which every position is principle-based around LIBERTY, as formalized in the Constitution. None of the other candidates have such a principled core, leading them to illogical and irrational positions, double-standards, flip-flopping, and hypocrisy. Or outright scary positions, that erode our civil rights. And that's what's got us into this mess. Haven't you had enough of that? It's time for a change of direction. Ron Paul offers that new direction, and We The People, are joining him. We just happen to be using the internet to make it happen. When this is fully played out, this will be viewed as the Second Revolution. It is history in the making, and the enabling ability of the internet is a large part of that. I think that's a bit more significant than one specific position from Obama on Net Neutrality, which will be nothing more than a footnote in history.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Nomen -

First, your passion in support of Ron Paul is admirable, and more people should be as politically engaged. I hope you realize that I wasn't writing in support of any one candidate, but just trying to answer what it means to be the true "internet candidate" and who will go down in history as the "internet candidate" of this election.

Second, that same enthusiasm might be impeding your logical judgment. For example, are you really predicting a "100%" voter turnout by Ron Paul supporters? While I agree that polling methods are not a precision science, there's really no evidence that suggests that his support is actually significantly higher than the 5% number he is currently receiving. The polling inaccuracies apply to all of the candidates, after all.

Third, while it's also true that Paul is most popular with younger voters, that is consistently the demographic who turnout to vote the least. Therefore, if history is anything to go by, Paul's popularity among young voters most likely will not translate into a higher percentage of votes than his polling numbers suggest. In fact, it probably means the opposite.

Fourth, my claim that governments have been, and should be, creating legislation applying to cyberspatial activity is really in two parts. 1) Govts have been legislating cyberspace, for which there is ample evidence from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to prohibitions on disseminating child pornography, gambling online, etc. 2) Govts should be legislating cyberspace - a normative statement - based on the reasoning behind all civil society; that when the "community" seeks to achieve collective goals (safety, equality, protection of rights, etc.) some type of governance needs to be created in order to achieve them.

I appreciate the conversation. Thanks :-)

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

* Rob, Yes, I surely am suggesting 100% Ron Paul voter turnout, and that's a very considered, evidence-based position. To "get" Ron Paul is to love him. Ron Paul voters would walk through blizzards to vote. Can the same be said of the supporters of any other candidate? Unless people are physically incapable of getting there, they will attend. That's the nature of his support base, because those that support him recognize that this may well be our last chance to turn back from the path of fascism, tyranny, and economic disaster, that we are now on. And that's very important - for us, for our children, and our children's children.

That is also true of the youth vote for Ron Paul. If you think that youth's traditional low turnout (eg "If history is anything to go by") applies to Ron Paul, you clearly have no real idea about the movement that is happening. I suggest you either research it more (eg check out some Ron Paul web sites -, or be prepared for a VERY big surprise. Many people that have never been politically engaged their entire life - including some of the older members of the population - are donating for the first time ever, or getting out and actually canvassing for Ron Paul, and doing other such things, for the first time ever. Dr Paul cures apathy.

* How can you possibly justify suggesting that the polling inaccuracies apply equally to all candidates? Ron Paul has a very high youth vote (apparently agreed), but I've made the (unrefuted) case that the youth vote is overwhelmingly underrepresented in landline telephone polling, as most youth have cell phones only, and it is illegal for pollsters to call cell phones. Surely you must concede that that would have to affect the polling numbers? Giuliani, Romney, et al, have older support bases that have traditionally voted Republican (the so-called "Republican base"). Such people are generally all living in landline home environments. Therefore their supporters are polled a lot more often than Ron Paul supporters. To not account for these facts is illogical, and leaves you suggesting an absurd, indefensible position.

* Your suggestion that the governing forces are legislating the internet because the "community" want it to be 'to protect them' is patently absurd. Internet users overwhelmingly reject regulation, but "Internet Governance" people keep trying to shove it down their throats. You have made a career choice, and therefore feel as though you have to justify it; I can see that. But that doesn't make it right. What gives some government the right to say that me - in my own home - cannot spend my own money gambling on some website? And like I said earlier, Statists just use the most offensive of uses to try to force regulation on everything. Child pornographers existed prior to the internet. They passed around photos, and CD's of photos. Why regulate the MEDIUM? If they want to do that, why not punish the postal service? There's a lot more nefarious activity conducted via postal services than the internet. Where is the line you cross in moving from a little regulation, to the Great FireWall of China? It's very thin, and very blurry, and WILL be crossed if we continue down the path you are proposing. Please, enlighten yourself to the inevitable abuses by Statism, before it's too late, and you become one of the cogs in the machine.

At 4:23 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Rob, Regarding the Ron Paul youth vote, please read this entire thread:


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