Google-bombing McCain won't be enough
by Shai Sachs, Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 09:34:15 AM EST
Yesterday Chris Bowers got the ball rolling with the Googlebomb John McCain project. I admire Chris's work a great deal, and in particular I think his innovative Google-bomb campaigns have been absolutely phenomneal. But I think beating John McCain will require a lot more than just a Google-bomb.
Google-bombs work best in a low information election. For background, the point of a Google bomb is to cause a negative but neutrally sourced news article about a candidate to appear high in Google search engine rankings when web users search for the candidate's name. So Chris's Google-bomb for 2006 House Republican candidates worked really well because voters quite often didn't know much about those candidates. In the weeks before the election, voters sought out information about those candidates by typing their names into Google, and came up with the negative stories that bloggers helped push high into the search engine results.
The problem with John McCain is that he's extremely well-known, in a shallow way, by a lot of voters. The general perception is that he's a maverick clean-ethics Republican, and is therefore more moderate than the rest of his party. There is also a quiet perception that he's very hard to beat, and that "most" voters like him. This meta-opinion about the election is perhaps just as damaging to our activists as the fuzzy notion of McCain as a whole, because it dampens the effect of our enthusiasm gap.
While I think Google-bombing will do some good, I think a really effective solution will have to go further. I think it will have to incorporate a grassroots messaging campaign which a) informs progressive activists that McCain isn't really a maverick, clean-ethics, moderate Republican, and b) informs progressive activists that beating McCain is not going to be difficult. This campaign has to be virally spread, pushed from friend-to-friend via blog posts, Facebook notes, YouTube embeds, and all sorts of other peer-to-peer venues.
My recommendation is that progressive bloggers establish a regular routine of "buzzing against McCain". Similar to Atrios and DailyKos's monthly Kerry fundraising days in 2004, these will be days when we exhort progressive activists to flood the social networks with some small, simple, anti-McCain meme, like "McCain is unelectable", "McCain is a lobbyist lap-dog", "McCain wants another 100 years in Iraq", and the like. Ideally, I'd also like to see some kind of distributed badge infrastructure which allows bloggers to display the meme of the week (or month, or whatever) prominently on there blogs, right alongside a photo of "the hug". OpenLeft has been doing some great spade work on establishing an anti-McCain narrative in recent weeks, and I think some of that work will come in very handy as we try to come up with anti-McCain memes to be spread virally. But we'll have to go beyond the Google-bomb to win this election.
(Full disclosure: my company did a bit of technical/design work for Chris and Open Left last year.)