The headline from today's Washington Post ought to send a strong message to Michael Arcuri, the Democrat running for Congress in New York's 24th congressional district: "Lamont Relied On Net Roots -- And Grass Roots". The message is confirmed by Time Magazine's article on Joseph Lieberman's defeat: "As much as it was a repudiation of his support for the Iraq War, Joe Lieberman's loss Tuesday in the Senate primary also signaled the ascendancy of a legitimate new power center in the Democratic party, the Netroots."
There have been many Democrats in the 24th District who claim that the Internet doesn't matter to this campaign. The Arcuri for Congress campaign appears to be listening to their counsel. It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, on the Democratic side at least. A campaign cannot make use of the power of the Internet by pretending that it does not exist.
It's a shame, because there are people in this district who would help the Arcuri campaign online, if only the Arcuri campaign would make it possible. Compare the following two reports of message board activity:
"Our users have posted a total of 2 articles
We have 19 registered users"
"Our users have posted a total of 54 articles
We have 15 registered users"
CreepyVeep.com was only really active for a week or two, and yet, its 15 registered users posted 54 articles during that time - more than 25 times the amount of activity on the Arcuri for Congress message board in months and months.
Why? Well, Michael Arcuri's campaign has been frightened of the web from the beginning, and Arcuri has shown a lawyer's terror that someone could say something unfortunate on the campaign's message boards. So, although the discussion forum is present on the Arcuri for Congress web site, it is, for all intents and purposes, shut down.
Months ago, we heard that the message board shut down was just temporary, for technical reasons. Then, we were told that some unspecified person was trying to say something nasty about Mike Arcuri, and that the campaign needed to come up with a way to moderate the forum - although the forum software the campaign was using already had that function built in.
Now, with less than three months to go until Election Day, those same old two messages have been sitting there, undiscussed, and even unread - you have to register to even look at what they renamed the "volunteer forum", and it doesn't appear that the forum is taking new volunteer registrations. It's a problem throughout the web site. About one piece of news is added to the "breaking news" every month. The campaign calendar is completely empty. The weird alert to "Stay tuned" for Michael Arcuri trading cards rests unchanged since there was still snow on the ground.
Ray Meier doesn't have world's the most savvy campaign web site, but he's not making Arcuri's mistake of letting the web site gather dust. He posts news every few days, giving the impression of an active campaign. Headlines like "Meier Helps New Hartford Seniors" and "From Honor America Days to Lobsterfest, an All American Weekend in Upstate" show that Ray Meier is getting to know the district.
The Arcuri for Congress web site promises, "When you know Michael Arcuri, you'll want him representing YOU in Congress!" However, because Michael Arcuri's online outreach is practically zilch, most Democrats in the district still have no idea who Arcuri is. This was true even for most of the politically active Democrats who attended my little MoveOn house party the other week. I had to tell these people who their candidate is.
Ned Lamont's victory over Joseph Lieberman last night should be a wake up call to Michael Arcuri. The Internet matters, and the candidate who ignores that fact risks unanticipated doom.
Former Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards announced this week that he personally will be travelling to help out two congressional candidates who were able to demonstrate online support. He'll be travelling to Minnesota and Texas, not to New York, because Michael Arcuri couldn't muster enough Internet traffic to participate successfully in Edwards's competition.
It's not the loss of Edwards's potential visit on its own that hurts. So far, there haven't been any big names coming to appear with Arcuri. Not even Bill and Hillary Clinton have bothered to come from downstate to make a speech for our Democratic candidate. Photographs from a State Democratic Committee convention won't cut it. Ray Meier's had Dick Cheney visit, and now John Boehner, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, will be speaking on his behalf in Cortland.
The Democratic candidate for Cayuga County Sheriff is getting John Walsh, the host of the TV show America's Most Wanted, to come campaign for him, for goodness sake. Will Arcuri get nobody? Will Rahm Emanuel not deign to send somebody our way?
We have an open seat in a swing district in the most active congressional campaign year in memory. Our district should not be getting snubbed in this way.
It is time to get online, get engaged, and get in gear, Mr. Arcuri. No, let me correct that. The time for action is overdue.