Reflection: Rock the Votocracy

We’ve known for a long time that YouTube can make almost anyone seem relevant. “Singers” like Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black got their start through the website; almost-victim Antoine Dodson enjoyed some cash and 15 minutes of fame after his local news tirade went viral; Nebraska teenager Lucas Cruikshank has a face that has appeared on thousands of Hot Topic T-shirts thanks to his one-man video series about “Fred Figglehorn.” But could someone use the popular social media site for even loftier aspirations–say, to become POTUS? Apparently, the answer is yes.

Paul Vasquez is best known to the Internet as “Double Rainbow Guy,” for his intense admiration of a bilayered spectrum that appeared over his mobile home near Yosemite National Park in January 2010. After uploading a video called “Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow 1-8-10” to YouTube from his Hungrybear9562 account, the video went unnoticed for months before, on July 3, Jimmy Kimmel linked it in a tweet and ESPN columnist Bill Simmons retweeted it an hour later. The next day Huffington Post was carrying a short article about the video. “Woah, that’s a full rainbow. All the way. Double rainbow, oh my God,” Vasquez breathes in the video. “It’s a double rainbow all the way. Woah, that’s so intense. Oh, man. Wow!” But Vasquez wants to translate his Internet fame into more than interviews with CBS News and commercials with Microsoft (which he’s done). CNN reports that he also wants a crack at being leader of the free world, and that he intends to use the social media influence he already has to get elected.

Vasquez will be running using a Facebook application called Votocracy. Votocracy has the look and feel of digital politics in a nutshell. With the slogan “More voices, more choices”, Votocracy’s simple, user-friendly website tells visitors that “anyone with the passion to run for president–including you–can get involved, get heard, and attract supporters from all across the country … without political experience or big financial backers.” A three-minute YouTube video linked on the home page (that, when clicked, takes users not to YouTube but to an in-site Flash pop-up) quickly puts human faces to the app: people of all ages and agendas say they want to be POTUS for all sorts of reasons, from the fact they never like mainstream politicians to their desire to leave “a legacy” for their children. Visitors are given quick and easy options for starting their bid for POTUS–they can log into Votocracy with their Facebook account and, for a dollar, start a campaign. While it technically costs $99 to run through Votocracy, the site allows this pittance of a down payment if the rest can be raised through supporters. “Compare that to the $8,100 you would have to spend just to get on the ballot in all 50 states,” the story states.

People become supporters of someone by “Like”-ing his or her Votocracy page. Vasquez currently has 50 “Likes”–which seems like a small number until you realize that most candidates have four or five supporters. Although it’s of course very difficult for people to convince total strangers they deserve to be president, by 2012, someone from Votocracy will officially run for POTUS. CNN reports that Votocracy will soon devise a system that pits the most popular candidates from each state and Washington, D.C. against each other in a head-to-head competition that, if televised, won’t be too dissimilar from “American Idol.”

As scary as that is, at least it might make more people vote.

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