Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000.
Jack Reynolds has an urgent message for you: "Repent and Believe on Jesus."
What will happen if you decline? Nothing much. Except that you will be "tormented forever in the Lake of Fire."
Reynolds is the Republican nominee in Indiana's 1st District, centered in Gary in the northwestern corner of the Hoosier state. Reynolds doesn't live anywhere near the 1st District. In fact, according the Associated Press, he lives in the rural southern corner of the state in the 7th District. In a mobile home. With a pet goat.
Reynolds has no chance of winning. He has raised no money (or at least filed no financial reports). He probably won the primary because people confused him with another guy named Jack Reynolds from the 1st District.
But he's got a detailed Web site complete with Spanish translations and explanations of the great Christian nation we used to be and the web of lies spun by wily evolutionists and tricky lawyers bent on twisting the Constitution.
Reynolds also promises to overturn all restrictive gun laws so we can protect ourselves "against federal and UN troops that may decide to establish a world government by force." He even throws in a helpful link to www.texemarrs.com, which carries a blockbuster report on the Pentagon's secret plan to "implant biochips in the brains of servicemen so they can 'think, see, and feel' as their distant controllers direct."
By now we all know how important the Web is in competitive races, how candidates are learning to exploit the new medium to raise money, set up e-mail networks, and explain their positions—all while bashing their opponents with negative Web sites and banner ads. All true. All interesting and worth knowing about.
But what about the Jack Reynoldses of the world?
Are there other mavericks like him out there running shoestring campaigns we would know little about without the wondrous powers of the World Wide Web? You bet.
There is Alaska's poor Mark Greene (not the ER doctor), who can't scramble up the cash to spread the word in his effort to oust Republican Rep. Don Young.
"Although I have spent a good portion of my personal funds for the campaign, I can't afford to go to Anchorage for the public TV forum without contributions," Greene laments on his site. "What's left of the 'Wave of Democracy' campaign tour is only a trip to Anchorage, if that. Sufficient contributions have not come in for trips to Bethel, Nome or Fairbanks."
In Northwestern Los Angeles County, actor Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi on TV's Babylon 5) is running a long-shot challenge to incumbent Democrat Brad Sherman. Doyle's bio boasts that "at the height of a ten-year career on Wall Street, Jerry decided a new career challenge was in order. In 1991, he packed up and headed to Hollywood. With no acting experience, Doyle hit the streets and the phones with a vengeance."
The vengeance paid off. Doyle almost immediately landed "a role as a 'day player' on The Bold and the Beautiful—a part that lasted almost one year. Then came recurring roles on Homefront, Reasonable Doubts and the animated series Duckman."
The rest of Doyle's Web site consists of typical GOP boilerplate: attacks on the death tax, a marriage-penalty tax calculator. Appearances at an upcoming fund-raiser are promised from such "Hollywood celebrities" as Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie, Bruce Boxleitner, and Tracy Scoggins. Doyle strikes an oddly biblical note on the front page of his site, referring to Sherman, a Harvard Law School graduate and certified public accountant, as "a former tax collector."
Some long-shot candidates don't offer a great deal of information for voters. For instance, if you are among the small but hardy group of Democrats living in North Central Illinois, and you want to vote against House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, your candidate is Vern DelJonson.
Visit www.kanedems.org/vern/index.html and you will learn that DelJonson supports full government funding of elections, a single-payer health-care system, and other staunchly liberal positions. You will also learn that DelJonson is a modest fellow who admits, "I don't consider myself an expert on Social Security."
What you won't find, however, is anything about Vern DelJonson himself, except for the correct spelling of his name, which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee can't seem to get right on its Web site, www.dccc.org. (According to the AP, DelJonson is a "former mechanic who now operates a mobile vending business.")
Democrats eager to learn more about DelJonson might come up empty, but Republicans yearning for information about Michael Bailey, a staunch anti-abortion activist running against Democrat Baron Hill in Indiana's 9th District, will find a wealth of material at www.baileyforlife.com/.
In addition to expounding on his campaign platforms, Bailey devotes a section of his site to "Barn-House Living," telling the story of how his wife and nine kids gave up city life and moved to a 225-acre farm in Harrison County, Ind., in 1994. In 1995 they began a mammoth project to turn a barn on the property into their home with a little help from some friendly Amish neighbors. By late summer it appeared the home might not be ready for winter, leaving the Baileys in dire straits.
But all was not lost. "My friends were like angels from heaven rounding up folks from all over southern Indiana," Bailey writes on the site, explaining how "six teams of men" arrived to speed construction along. By October of 1994 the house was finished and there was much rejoicing. Five years later the house burned to the ground.
"I remember telling the boys that someday this house and every other thing they make with their hands will burn to the ground," Bailey wrote. "I meant when God destroys the earth and when He creates a new earth—I never dreamed our house would be destroyed by fire so soon."
Just four years ago, you and I would have learned nothing about Bailey's barn fire. Or Doyle's role on The Bold and the Beautiful. But thanks to the Web, we can get all that and more on just about any race in the country. And maybe, just maybe, we can stay out of the "Lake of Fire."