Election '96:  The Web Aspect

Well, it's that time again--time for presidential elections to bog down the newspapers for a month or two. While Bill Clinton and Bob Dole exchange sound bites (and Ross Perot does whatever it is that he does--probably talk with Larry King), the public is treated to reading about every bit of it over and over again in the newspapers. However, a well-informed public is the key to a well-run government. Just as images and quotes from the candidates flood every visual and print medium, the Internet is also becoming a part of the political game. Political parties, their candidates, election information, polls, and even parodies are popping up all over the World Wide Web. We'd like to take a chance to look at some of these sites.

First, let's glance at a few of the websites for the parties themselves. The Republicans, Democrats, and the Reform Party all sport their own pages on the World Wide Web. Their URLs are:
The less-prominent parties:

All of these sites can be quite informative. They generally include information on the party's platform and history, its contact information, a chance to contribute funds, and all sorts of other tidbits.

There are also a number of sites devoted entirely to the presidential election. Most include polls, platform information, and lots of other goodies. These include:

These pages tend to cover the election in a non-biased way, as compared to the party and candidate sites. By recording the election as it happens, they offer up-to-date news on the candidates and the issues.

The Candidates

Bill Clinton

It would be proper to begin this discussion of the candidates with the defending champion, William Jefferson Clinton, (a.k.a. Bill Clinton, Bubba, Slick Willy). Clinton is a Democrat and former governor of the lovely state of Arkansas. He defeated George Bush in the election of '92 and has spent the past four years in the Oval Office. He is a self-described conservative democrat.
Clinton's platform is typical of the Democratic party. He is concerned with getting a national health-care program set up and is also known for his involvement with minority rights. As for the Internet censorship issue, Clinton expressed disappointment earlier in the year when the Communications Act (famous for its hatred among Internet users) was overturned. However, he now agrees that perhaps there might be a better way to handle the situation.
The official Clinton homepage is of average quality. It features a nice (yet possibly overly) graphical look, yet very average content. All in all, a better effort could have been put forth, but it is still worth a visit.

Bob Dole

Bob Dole is Clinton's primary challenger in the upcoming election. A Republican hailing from Kansas, Dole has been a member of the Senate since Julius Caesar was assassinated there. Until his recent retirement to concentrate on the presidential run, he served as Senate Majority Leader for the Republican Party.
Dole is a conservative individual, focusing a great deal of his campaign toward attacking the corrupt values fed to America's youth by Hollywood. On the issue of Internet censorship, Dole feels that legislation is not the answer. He feels that it is a parent's responsibility to make sure his or her child doesn't access the wrong kind of sites and chatrooms.
Dole's website is superior to that of the other candidates. It has a nice, professional look to it and also presents a large amount of content about the candidate and his party stances. It's oft-repeated mantra, "More opportunities. Smaller Government. Stronger and safer families," seems to sum up Dole's campaign in a nutshell.

Ross Perot

Ross Perot, founder of the Reform Party and all-around hilarious guy, is once again taking a shot at the presidency in the 1996 election. The notorious third factor in the Bush/Clinton race of 1992, it's hard to tell what sort of impact he may have this year.
Perot, one of America's richest businessmen, looks at the United States government as a large business and plans to, if elected, run it as such. Specializing in homespun common-sense nuggets of wisdom and nifty charts, Perot may be a serious contender this year as the Reform Party gains more and more support.
Perot doesn't have a personal campaign website. The Reform Party's homepage doubles as his own. The sharing of this site leads to a general lack of information about Perot's campaign, making it the most disappointing of the three.

Web Parodies

Another aspect of the election to be found on the Web are parodies of the various candidates' sites. Chief among these are:

Both of these sites poke good-natured fun at the candidates in the finest Saturday Night Live sort of fashion. Check out both and find out interesting things like the fact that Bob Dole is president of the Dole Fruit Company.

Web Games

Also, on the Web, there are a growing number of campaign simulation games that allow you to play out an election of your own. The two most popular are:

These sites offer a chance to play along with the hustle and bustle of a campaign and can be quite a bit of fun once you get into them.

So, it is clear that the Internet is the newest soapbox for presidential politics. The sites mentioned above are just a few of the many that any search engine will turn up today.

Why are so many of these sites turning up? It's simple, really. The candidates realize that many of the Internet generation (the "Saved by the Bell" Generation, as I like to refer to them) will be voting for the first time in the 1996 election. Therefore, it is chief among their priorities to try to encourage this important demographic to participate in the upcoming election.

Now, if you're over eighteen, make sure to get registered, get informed, and get involved. And, as a wise man once said, "Vote early and vote often." Well, you might want to ignore that last part.

Jess Morrissette

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