Two thoughts came to my mind when I first watched Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel’s video on YouTube, “Rock.” The first was, “Wow. He’s really close to the camera.” Try searching “rock” on YouTube. It’s the first result that comes up, followed by Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” and Blink-182’s “The Rock Show.”
I tried to get a break from Gravel’s giant, staring head. I looked from side to side, uncomfortably. Nope, no getting around it. After 45 seconds, same glare. Probably could have turned him off, but I was already in on the secret: there’s a reward for watching.
It came at 1:12. Just like that, Gravel slowly but sharply turned and walked away. He then picked up a rock, and threw it into the water at camera left. The large stone plopped and the water rippled. He dusted off his hands and walked away for another minute and half until he disappeared into the forest and the video ended.
“Is there an explanation for this creation?” I wondered, amused and stunned. Best way to describe the video: a giant club with “metaphor” etched in to its side, guaranteed to deliver a thundering blow directly to your cranium. My second thought, which I came to after I finished recovering from the initial shock, was that Gravel is really running for president. This wasn’t some joke.
What does this sort of video mean for the process? He’s campaigning in a whole new way with his videos on YouTube. Though he has a small percentage of support, after nearly thirty years out of the spotlight, he’s engaging people, and mainstream candidates should take note. He brings a bit of levity to the whole primary gang-bang, and it’s a fact that politics could use a little more “crazy” and a little less fluffy, transparent pomposity. Gravel is someone who speaks at the issues rather than around them, a visible imagination that wasn’t completely snuffed out in law school, and an interest in addressing solutions to pressing problems that are considered politically touchy.
Thankfully, Gravel had an explanation for The Rock video. “It’s a metaphor,” he explained in another YouTube video conveniently entitled, “Mike Gravel explains ‘the rock’ video.” I knew that already, thankfully. He continued, “All [the directors] are trying to do is convey one simple message, ‘Here’s an ordinary citizen, Mike Gravel, and what he’s doing, he’s trying to make a change in society and then he’s going on with his life or to death.'”
Here is an inescapable fact about democracy: the person most fit for the presidency and the person most fit to campaign for the presidency is rarely the same. This applies to both parties. People who get elected sometimes stink at their jobs, and perfectly qualified candidates fall by the wayside to botched campaigns.
Most campaigners and elected officials demand little more from the American people than the time it takes to hear a sound bite on local news, let alone dealing with anything slightly uncomfortable or different. The truth, by its very nature, has a tendency to be disturbing and a little hard to stomach. It can be unexpected and out of the ordinary. Mike Gravel is out there telling the truth: he’s crazy and he believes in real things.
Good, because all too often campaigners are so concerned with offending people that in order to say anything, they say as little as possible, which in the end, amounts to virtually saying nothing at all.