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View From Lodi, CA: The Internet Erupts Into Politics [With Joenote to VDARE.COM Readers]
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July 11, 2003, 05:00 AM
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The Internet is the political wave of the future. The net is already a major player in the certain recall of California Governor Gray Davis. And Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean has stormed onto the national scene thanks in large part to the Internet.

In the years to come, savvy pols will turn to the Internet and away from traditional whistle-stop campaigning. The days of going from Bakersfield to Fresno to Modesto to Stockton to Lodi to Sacramento in a single morning to press the flesh may soon be over. Why bother when a candidate can accomplish so much more in cyberspace?

Ironically, Davis recognized in 2000 the growing power of the Internet. In a Los Angeles Times Op-ed he co-authored with New York Governor George Pataki, Davis wrote:

"We live in a remarkable moment when technology is turning the impossible into the commonplace. Just as computers and the Internet have transformed the way we shop, communicate and work, it is a matter of time before these innovations transform the way we govern ourselves."

What Davis envisioned, of course, was that the Internet would provide a new avenue for supporting his policies. And Davis no doubt anticipated that one-day citizens would be able to vote electronically. The political process would become the modern day "Front Porch" campaign.

Just stay home like President William McKinley did at the beginning of the 20th Century. But be sure you`ve logged on.

But life has curious twists and turns. Now the Internet, which Davis admired so much he refused to impose taxes on it, is his arch-enemy.

According to Teri O`Rourke, Treasurer of the Recall Davis campaign:

"One reason none of the earlier recall efforts against California governors got off the ground is because the people simply didn`t have ready access to information. But the Internet changes all of that."

Every day Davis makes it easier for more Californians to add their signatures to recall petitions. Davis` 2003-04 spending plan includes cigarette, income, automobile and sales tax increases. Additional legislative proposals would create new taxes and both increase and widen the reach of existing taxes.

Larry McCarthy, President of www.caltax.org, wrote in the Silicon/San Jose Business Journal that

"There are nearly 100 bills awaiting consideration in the California Legislature that would gouge taxpayers with more than $20 billion in higher taxes or fees. This is Sacramento`s unfortunate response to a broken state budget and financial management system."

Substitute "Davis" for "Sacramento" and it is easy to understand why Californians are lined up to support the Davis recall.

Former Vermont Governor Dean has found the Internet a more inviting place. To the amazement of every veteran Washington DC observer, during the second quarter Dean raised nearly $7.5 million for his campaign. Of that impressive sum, nearly $800 thousand came on a single day.

Dean is expanding his Internet reach as he presses on with his surprising run for the Democratic nomination. On July 1, thousands of Dean supporters in 300 cities showed up at coffee houses, restaurants and Internet cafes. A new Dean website organized by 432 of his supporters, , enabled the groups to meet. In the true grassroots spirit, participants in each city were given stationery and asked to send two letters to Iowa Democrats in support of Dean`s candidacy in the January 2004 caucus.

A University of Virginia political scientist, Larry Sabato said

"People have been pooh-poohing the Internet and saying it has never lived up to its promise and it never would. Well, guess what? They`re wrong, and it is living up to its promise. And it`s going to be one of the primary vehicles for both organization and coverage from now on."

And Joe Trippi, a long time Democratic consultant and now Dean`s campaign manager says the Internet is perfect for his candidate.

Said Trippi, in an interview last week from Dean`s Vermont headquarters, said various factors have converged to make this year a "perfect storm" for an Internet candidacy.

Most importantly, according to Trippi, is that the Dean campaign unlike traditional efforts is not tightly run from the top. That style isn`t a good match for the Internet.

"You have to have a campaign that`s willing to let go," said Trippi "to allow the grass-roots groups to set up independent operations and Web sites."

Dean still has a long way to go to match George W. Bush`s golden touch. Raising $7 million in three months is a long way from Bush`s record of $5 million in a two-day California swing.

Dean may be a flash in the pan. But he doesn`t have Bush`s increasingly heavy baggage: growing unemployment, a deepening deficit, the floundering effort in Iraq and the frustrating pursuit of the world`s most famous missing people, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

[Joenote to VDARE.COM readers: Guess which issue is conspicuously missing from Dean`s "Where I Stand Page?" Dean might have a half-baked excuse; immigration hasn`t reached crisis levels in Vermont. But when I e-mailed the Dean staff questioning why immigration didn`t appear among the hot topics, I got no reply. I guess all those latte sippers aren`t going to raise any politically incorrect subjects. But at least they`re showing how to organize!)

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.