Wednesday, May 28, 2008

So Long, Mike

This week, former Senator Mike Gravel, longtime Democrat turned Libertarian, abandoned his hopes for the White House. After losing the Libertarian nomination to former Congressman Bob Barr, Gravel conceded that he’s out of the presidential race--and as the video below seems to suggests, out of politics for good.

For nearly a year, Gravel has been a forceful (and sometimes outrageous) presence on YouTube, pushing the limits of internet video and political campaigning in ways we’ve never seen. No doubt his YouTube celebrity started with The Rock (see below), a slightly avant-garde, but effective video that won Gravel attention both from YouTubers and the mainstream media alike.

But Gravel was just getting warmed up. Among the presidential candidates, Gravel proved to be one of the most active and savvy YouTube users. In addition to launching his own YouTube channel, Gravel continued to collaborate with other YouTube users, leveraging the power of the community to get his message across. Whether granting an interview to then college student James Kotecki, or appearing as Santa Claus with Red State Update, or serenading Obama Girl so that she might switch her allegiances, Gravel showed that when it came to embracing YouTube as a tool for social and political change, he was always willing to go the extra mile.

Gravel’s most consistent collaborator on YouTube has been rx2008, with whom he made a series of edgy political music videos. Complete with psychedelic graphics and not-to-subtle digs at George W., the videos featured Gravel as an anti-establishment agitator and raconteur, a candidate who’s ready to take on the mainstream for the sake of real political change.

Whether these and his other videos strengthened or undermined the legitimacy of his candidacy remains unclear, but they definitely confirmed Gravel’s central message: that he was a different kind of politician. Gravel may have lost his presidential bid, but few can deny that here on YouTube, he certainly caused quite a ripple.


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