Third Party & Independents Archives

Bob Smither, Netroots, and Name Recognition

Netroots activism has had a few impressive showings, including the recent victory by Ned Lamont over incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut’s primary elections. The Nation magazine summed it up thusly :

Ned Lamont's victory was driven by two triggers: First, the war elicited a primary opponent; then Internet activists convinced voters that he was a viable alternative.

In other words, there was a demand for change. There was somebody willing to supply that change. Internet activism simply got the message out.

Now, I don't want to overstate the effect of the blogosphere on a campaign, but clearly blogs are able to get the message out and generate a lot of attention. If a politician has a message that resonates with voters, then a netroots campaign is exactly what he or she needs in this day and age. Name recognition, media coverage, and the buzz of the old-fashioned grassroots movements can help to bring down unpopular incumbents, or draw attention to a candidate who might not otherwise be seen as viable.

Can you see where I am going with this?

In an excellent post here at WatchBlog, Richard Rhodes wrote:

The fact is whether many people want to admit it or not is that name recognition does matter. And this is the one thing that third parties lack.

Richard is correct that this problem will certainly burn “third party” candidates in the next presidential election. Congressional elections, however, are a different matter. Name recognition is easier to achieve in a single congressional district. But even in a congressional race, third party candidates generally lack name recognition because most people just don’t care. The real race is between the Democrat and the Republican… if there is both a Democrat and a Republican. I would like to suggest that in any race where there is not already both a Democrat and a Republican, there is a potential for a third party candidate to make a very strong showing and possibly even win a seat. Of course, trying this against a popular incumbent, this would present quite a challenge for even the most savvy and enthusiastic netroots activists. But what if the incumbent is unpopular… or what if there is no incumbent?

A netroots movement may be trying to build up around Libertarian Party candidate Bob Smither for Tom DeLay’s old congressional seat (District 22 in Texas). With Republicans unable to field a candidate, voters face a choice between the Democrat Nick Lampson and Libertarian Bob Smither. Will Republicans vote for a Libertarian just to spite the Democrats? Well, considering Smither’s promise to caucus with House Republicans if elected, and considering that Republican voters tend toward fiscal conservativism similar to that of Libertarians, they might be persuaded.

Jon Henke at QandO calls it the the Ron Paul option.

Other bloggers picking up the cause include Stephen VanDyke at Hammer of Truth, James at Swing State Project, and they’re arguing about it at Daily Kos.

A full read of the article by Lance at Inactivist.Org may spell out the best argument for pushing a netroots campaign. He asks for help in getting Bob Smither elected:

First, we have one more vote against big spending…
Second, we have the opportunity to send a message; most importantly Republicans have the chance to send a message that we as a citizenry are unhappy with the course our representatives have taken.

Hey, Lance, I'm on board. I can't vote for Bob Smither, but I can support his candidacy. I will direct people to his website. I will encourage netroots activism, not only among Libertarians but among all "third party" supporters, and independents. If you are reading this, please look into Bob Smither and see if you can support him and/or his candidacy.

Let's get the word out. Bob Smither for Congress.

Posted by Wulf at August 27, 2006 10:37 PM
Comment #177798

Wulf this is not against you do not take it personally please.

But shut the hell up everyone about Joe Lieberman, and Wulf I know your article was not focused on him completely and only slightly.

I have read to many damn posts about Lieberman over and over. People just focusing on this one race, one damn race in the Senate. This is not all you think it is gonna be. It is not the end of the damn world. It is not the anti war movement versus the pro war movement. It is one race which only people from Connecticut can vote. There are so many other Congressional races which deserve our attention. But you people can not shut up about Joe Lieberman, look at the right, left, and center of watchblog, or go to daily kos, or go to some conservative blog, everyone is talking up this race as the race to end it all.

The Lieberman campaign is not that damn important it is not the be all and end all in politics.

If Lieberman loses okay one pro war candidate loses, not 10 not 20 not 50, just one. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat but a pretty good candidate is as important. Michael Berg a Green is as important. Dennis Kuchinich is WAY WAY WAY more important, without Dennis Kuchinich the left in Congress will collapse, I am a well known Green through my writings but Kuchinich is the most important member of Congress for the left, period no questions asked. Everyone on the left should make sure and work their asses off to make sure Kucinich blows his opponent out of the damn water, which he probably will anyway, but we the left we need Kucinich.


Sorry Wulf I am just sick of hearing about Lieberman, your post is really good and I know you dont focus on him as your main piece of your article but I have seen his name too many damn times

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 28, 2006 4:25 AM
Comment #177799

Too any Greens who want to call me a turncoat or whatever for talking up Kuchinich, cause I know I will catch crap for this so I will preemptively answer it, you know as well as I do that if the Greens could pick any one Dem to join our party the Green Party that you as well as I would choose Kucinich or maybe Senator Feingold. These are two of the only Democrats who you know we would try to convert.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 28, 2006 4:29 AM
Comment #177803

No offense taken at all, Richard. I actually edited out a paragraph that said something similar to your point. I thought was awkward to the flow of the post, but maybe it would have been important.

As commenter “Kip” notes at my home blog, Lamont spent a lot of money on this primary. The media ate up the “underdog” netroots aspect and has tried to blow up this one primary into a referendum on the war. But especially considering that Lieberman is still running independently, Lamont’s victory was very small, and symbolic mostly for Connecticut Democrats.

I’d just like to see third party bloggers and anti-incumbent activists focusing on races where we can get a candidate elected, or at worst get a lot of attention before losing. In contrast to how it usually goes. I think Tom DeLay’s seat is a great opportunity for that. It’s much more important to me than Lieberman’s seat.

Posted by: Wulf at August 28, 2006 7:01 AM
Comment #184923

Have you seen the new poll putting Smither far ahead of the Republican in a very conservative Republican district (of course, NO Republican is on the ballot, and the idiots are trying to run a write-in campaign rather than support Smither):

Lampson, D @ 41%
Smither, L @ 25%
Undecided @ 23%
Shelley, R @ 11%


NO Libertarian has ever WON Congress. Ron Paul, the Republican turned Libertarian, also represented Dist 22—- so there are strong L roots there.


Posted by: Lloyd Laughlin at September 28, 2006 8:07 PM
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