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Presidential Parody '08

BY Alan Rosenblatt | Wednesday, March 21 2007

I did a quick search on Google for "President 2008" hoping to find a collection of links to the major candidates. After all, some people think the campaign has already started. But instead of finding Hillary, Rudy, Barack, John, and the gang at the top of the free links, I found MyDD, the Polling Report, Walken 2008, and Draft Hillary atop that list, while John, Mitt, and Bill (Richardson) showed up in the sponsored links (Hillary did, too, but not her official site).

Now, while some of you may ask why the official candidate websites don't rank higher, I am stunned that Walken 2008 ranks third on this list.

Walken.

That's Christopher Walken.

You might remember him from his 2004 campaign. He didn't win.

But this is 2008. Move aside Fred Thompson.

It is soooo early in this race that I really think we have to step back, relax, and breathe to stay sane for the long haul. So to help you regain that lost sense of balance, I wanted to take a look at the role of parody in presidential campaigns, especially online.

This story must start at a great moment in digital politics. In 1996 comedian Pat Paulson became the first presidential candidate to launch a campaign website. Paulson first ran for president in 1968. He didn't win. But I remember voting for him in my second grade's straw poll.

No one else in my class knew who he was, because this was before the internet and second graders knew very little of the world then.

But in 1996, Pat broke new ground.

When I saw his website, I had been teaching the Politics of Cyberspace for a year and was, of course, ecstatic. I immediately whipped off an email to Pat, telling him I was a fan and a scholar of digital politics. He replied personally, inviting me to call for an interview. Sadly, I procrastinated until long after the elections and Pat passed away before we could talk. He was 69 years old.

But he had launched a new era of presidential parody. In his wake followed a fake Bob Dole site that explained how the senior Senator from Kansas had no relations to Dole fruit company, but did like his bananas slightly over-ripe, "but not so ripe as to be mushy."

Parody is a delightful part of presidential elections. It helps us remember that those running are just people... people who want to be the leader of the FREE WORLD. "But even the president of the United States must stand naked" (look for my future post on the president and Rock'n'Roll).

So, I applaud Mr. Walken for again gracing us with his presence in the presidential race. And as we all get sucked deeper into this earliest campaign ever, I hope we can stop along the way and appreciate the humor that accompanies such a serious and momentous moment as a presidential campaign. May this moment last for another twenty-plus months.