Thursday, September 28, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: POLITICAL FUN WITH MYSPACE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 28, 2006


Watch out, kids, there’s a new MySpace member making no secret about wanting to attract young folk — the New Mexico Democratic Party.


Back in the 2004 campaign, the hot new Web realm for politicians was Meetup.org. This year, the cyber baton seems to have passed to MySpace, a popular Internet hangout — especially with teenagers and young adults — that allows users to share photos, videos, music and personal journals.

“We are focused on creating a better future for the next generation and encouraging young people to engage in the political process,” state democratic chairman John Wertheim said in a news release last week. “Because it is on their turf (the Internet) we’re hopeful that our MySpace page will make the Democratic Party and civic activism more inviting to young people.”

“The Party plans on further utilizing the page to recruit volunteers and keep fellow ‘MySpacers’ aware of political news and events,” the news release said.

Under the personal information section, the party claims to be a 20-year-old female who lives in Albuquerque, (although the group shot featuring National Democratic Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Wertheim and other state Dem staffers makes it clear they aren’t really trying to pass as a 20-year-old woman.) According to other “personal” information, the party is married with children and was born under the sign of Sagittarius.

When you open the party’s profile page you get treated to a song and video of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” which was used as a campaign theme in 2004 by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. But that song didn’t make the page’s “Favorite Music” list, which includes only “Born in the USA,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.”

As for movies, according to MySpace, the party likes All the President’s Men, The Candidate, Bullworth, The War Room and Primary Colors. The latter is a surprising choice, considering it’s a not-very-flattering comedic profile of a presidential candidate based on Bill Clinton.

For something that’s trying to appeal to the youth, the profile seems a little, well, stodgy when it lists its general interest as “Preserving the quality of life for New Mexicans by standing up for honest leadership and fair government, Real Security, Energy Independence, Economic Prosperity and Educational Excellence, A Health Care System that Works for Everyone and Retirement Security.”

I guess they couldn’t just say “skateboarding.”

But scroll down to the message section, and it gets a little more interesting. Someone sent in a Photoshopped picture of a baby urinating on President Bush.

On its news release, the party, probably wisely, stated: “The DPNM does not endorse the views or content of every person or organization associated with our MySpace network.”

You gotta have friends: One big feature of MySpace is the “Friends” list. As of Wednesday, the Democrats had 135 friends. Among these are Howard Dean, former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

There’s also a 58-year old man simply named “Bill,” who lists his hometown as Santa Fe and his occupation as governor of New Mexico.

Yes, Gov. Bill Richardson is on MySpace, though a spokesman for his office said Wednesday that he wasn’t aware of his boss’ MySpace profile. My bet is that it’s a product of the America For Bill Richardson blog, founded by a New Yorker named Ken Bulko who is pushing — in an unofficial capacity — Richardson for president. That site, and not the official re-election site, is the first link in the MySpace profile.

According to the profile, his interests including baseball, boxing, horseback riding, politics and cigars. (Well, that’s more interesting than “Preserving the quality of life for New Mexicans ... etc., etc.”)

His heroes are Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. His favorite movie is Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (which was shot at least partly in New Mexico).

His body type is described as “More to love!”

And of course, “Bill” has friends, 110 so far. The first one shown on the main profile page is a 26-year-old student and auto-racing fan in North Carolina called “Johnny Upchuck.”

Despite Richardson’s well-known connections, I didn’t see any big-name politicos here — unless you count Jim Faris, a 22-year-old bluegrass musician and candidate for state Legislature in Kansas, or “Bill McKay,” who was the main character, portrayed by Robert Redford, in the 1972 film The Candidate.

Selling the state: The state GOP isn’t using MySpace, at least in an official capacity, spokesman Jonah Cohen said. He said his party is having too much fun with its blog, “New Mexico For Sale,” which catalogs scandals, assorted allegations of misdeeds and basically any bad press related to the majority party.

The circus billboardlike logo has photos of Richardson, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez, former Sen. Manny Aragón, former Treasurers Robert Vigil and Michael Montoya and former Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna.

But no Johnny Upchuck.

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