I'm writing today because of the very real threat that Ron Paul's and Dennis Kucinich's online popularity will not translate into a real world win in the presidential election. I believe that Paul or Kucinich can win, and the key to victory is simple: We know how to “spam” internet polls and even many straw polls. Of course I use the term “spam” facetiously; we win because we're driven and organized. We must now use our organizational skills and drive to “spam” the primary elections.
The importance of primary elections may be obvious to the politically savvy, but many people do not even know what primary elections are. Many who know about primaries don't care enough to participate in them. Voter turnout in primary elections is, sadly, consistently low. In 2004, only 11.4 percent of Democrat voters participated in the primary elections. Consequently, the worst possible Democratic candidate was chosen to go up against Bush. Ask you friends and family members about primary elections, and you'll be surprised at how many of them don't really know what primaries are. For some reason, primary elections are the best kept open secret in American politics, even though they're even more important than the general elections. This is why I'm worried. Powerful people make sure to vote in primaries. Normal people don't. It won't be a shock to me if only half of the internet's rabid Paul and Kucinich supporters bother to participate in the primaries – but this can't be allowed to happen.
If the most ardent Paul and Kucinich supporters don't go to the primaries, all their successful grassroots fund raisers and internet poll victories mean squat. Unfortunately, getting someone to send money through Paypal or click a link to a poll might prove far easier than persuading them to actually get up off their asses and get to a polling station, much less go through the trouble of registering to vote. But this, ultimately, is all that matters. So if you're involved in a grassroots movement, the primary election is your ultimate battle and requires you to redouble your efforts. Start getting out the message now, whether it's through your blog, email list, or message board: register to vote now, if you haven't already. Find out where your polling station is, when your primary takes place, and then, be damned sure to vote.
But that's only if we want a chance of winning; we'll be far from certain victory. Sure, we can absolutely dominate internet polls, but that means nothing in the real-world primaries (remember Howard Dean?). All that matters are real-world votes. We're dedicated and resourceful, but how do we turn our dedication and resourcefulness into the type of numbers needed to win a primary?
There is a way.
Remember all those friends and family members of yours who never vote in primary elections? Oh yes, you're going to need to take all of them with you – dragging them if you have to – to “spam” the primary elections.
If you think this is a strange idea, realize that this is true campaigning. Winning elections means, ultimately, getting people to vote. And there's a good chance that, if they vote, your friends and family members will vote for Paul or Kucinich.
Think about the kind of person you are. You want the bloodbath in Iraq to end and our civil liberties to be restored. You love peace and freedom. If you're this cool, the people you care about must be pretty cool. Maybe friends who are smart but lazy. You need to go to work on them. Surely you have a couple a**hole friends, too, who'd probably just vote for Giuliani – don't bother with them. But start talking to your cool friends, the ones who would like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich. Tell them why you are excited about your favorite candidate. Tell them about their positions and domination of internet polls. Show them clips from the debates on Youtube. Tell them about the how important the primaries are. Then, ask them to vote with you.
It can be pretty easy to get people excited about Paul and Kucinich. So many people hate Bush and would love to vote for the guy who's trying to impeach Cheney. My best friend, who is a lazy, apathetic bum, had a sudden attitude change when I told him that Ron Paul supports gun rights and legalization of drugs and prostitution. Almost before I could finish the sentence, he said, “Dude, I'm in.”
If a potential Paul or Kucinich supporter resists your appeals, apply pressure. For instance, I promised my father-in-law that I'll never listen to his political rants again if he doesn't bother to vote in the primary. I think the threat worked! My brother-in-law, a poor college student who lives with my wife and I, will be denied all access to my special cane-sugar root beer stash if he neglects his civic duty. As positive reinforcement, I'm also buying dinner for everyone who votes. Money well spent.
Of course, I'll have to do all the work required, and so will you. If you know people who need to register, you'll have to get the forms, fill in the information that you know, pester your friends until they finish and sign the forms, and then mail the forms yourself. You'll also have to find out where your friends' polling places are and, probably, drive their lazy asses there yourself. If you need more drivers, enlist your lover or spouse. If this sounds like a pain, imagine four to eight years under Giuliani. And face it: this is how elections are won.
Remember, if the people we love don't vote in the primaries, they are the reason why our country is in a mess. It's your fault too – and mine – because we let them get a way with it. We don't put the pressure on them to do the one damn thing they need to do – just once every four years, for goodness' sake – to make sure this country is governed by sane people. Well, it can't happen this year. We're going to have to find a way to get our friends to vote.
Let me leave you with this thought. In the 2004 Iowa caucuses, Howard Dean would have won, had each of his voters brought two like-minded friends.