|From the Valley News in New Hampshire||Back to b-rant.com|
When Laramie Crocker rants and sings, Howard Dean benefits.
That's the lates political theory , anyway, to explain the Web-driven support that has helped propel the former Vermont governor into the top tier of the Democratic presidential candidates.
The 38-year-old Crocker, who spends half the year in a home near the West Windsor village of Brownsville, is a prime example of how Dean supporters are using the Internet to spread the message of their discontent with Washington and their enthusiasm for Dean.
What's more, the amateur singer-songwriter and self-described "extreme telecommuter" between the Upper Valley and the Bay Area in his native California has also written several political songs available on the Web, including a tune called I Want My Country Back that was inspired, in part, by Dean's speeches.
The lyrics include such lines as, "No war on the poor, no war on Iraq, no nuclear strike or preemptive attack ... I want my country back, " and "I'm not down with the political machine, but I'm proud to be a Democrat with Howard Dean."
Crocker played some of his songs for Dean campaign workers and volunteers in Lebanon at a "Meetup" arranged through the Web earlier this summer while they wrote letters to voters in Iowa. He also strummed his guitar and sang his protest songs for the volunteers after a day of canvassing, and last week hit the Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners for "open mike" night.
Needless to say, Crocker's antiwar tunes are striking a chord with Democrats in the Upper Valley. "The Dean campaign as attracted a lot of people who feel compelled to use whatever medium the are involved in to express themselves. Laramie is someone who is a musician and has started to use his talent to voice his support for Dean, which is really cool," said Becky Windt, the Upper Valley regional field director for the Dean campaign. "Having Laramie writing his own songs about the campaign adds to the flavor of what we are doing."
While some of the songs are catchy -- and he also performed at antiwar rallies in the Bay Area -- it is Crocker's professional talents that may wind up helping Dean as well. A mechanical engineer from the University of California at Berkeley, Crocker is a java programmer who works for a financial services company in California, doing his work by a satellite dish link from Vermont.
His technical skills enable him to run his own Weblog, www.b-rant.com, which features personal comments, lyrics to his songs, and links to antiwar sites, offical Dean campaign material and alternative media. Crocker also enables visitors to www.b-rant.com. to download his songs, such as Yes, Mr. Cheney and Bombing for Peace for free. "The idea is to get these songs out there, and get people listening to them, and if people get excited about them and pass them on to their friends, that's great," Crocker said. "The message of peace and sanity in government and the message of getting Dean elected is absolutely what I'm after. That's worth much more than trying to make $5 on a CD here and there."
Besides his personal "rants" on www.b-rant.com, Crocker is the Webmaster for a larger site in the East Bay (Berkeley and Oakland area), www.eb4dean.com. The content for that site is determined by a large group of Bay Area Dean supporters. Crocker said he was drawn to Dean, the most vociferous opponent of the war in Iraq among the Democratic candidates, after attending antiwar rallies and a Dean campaign Web-based Meetup in the spring in California.
He has added material to his www.b-rant.com Web sited -- the name is short for "Web rant" -- since coming back to his house near Mount Ascutney and the Brownsville-Windsor line this spring. The summerhouse has been in his family since he was 17, and Crocker now spends about six months a year in Vermont. "I'm just so in love with the house and the area and the weather, I decided this would be a good place to call home," he said.
He uses high-tech equipment to record his songs and post them on the Web, straight from Brownsville. "I generally do it late at night. Nobody is running chain saws or anything," he said. "It ends up being fairly CD-quality."
Although many Weblogs can be notorious for playing loose with facts, Crocker was careful in an interview to distinguish between his complete opposition to the PATRIOT Act and Dean's more nuanced critique of the law. Crocker's www.b-rant.com site has drawn some 1,800 "page hits" from 480 individual visitors since he launched it this spring, and the larger www.eb4dean.com sites has gotten almost 2,000 "hits" in the past three weeks alone.
Spurred on by Internet-savvy campaign manager Joe Trippi, Dean is cultivating an online following that has helped him raise money from more that 93,000 people around the country.
But some political observers are saying it is too early to determine whether the intensive Web traffic will translate into actual votes for Dean in New Hampshire and other primary states next year. While bringing new voters into the political process helped wrestler Jesse Ventura win election as governor of Minnesota, Linda Fowler, a professor of government and the director of the Nelson Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, is not sure the Web traffic for Dean will have similarly dramatic results. "The single largest unmobilized group in the country are young people," she said. "I see my students here."