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Double Rainbow guy running for president via Facebook

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'Double Rainbow' guy: No sex, drugs here
  • Candidates stating their positions and taking questions on Facebook app Votocracy
  • Founder: Votocracy "more connected, more human, more raw" than traditional campaigning
  • App plans to help people connect on issues, by matching people with similar beliefs

(Mashable) -- Paul Vasquez is better known to the Internet as the "Double Rainbow Guy." He lives in a mobile home just outside of Yosemite National Park, tinkers in organic farming and alternative energy, and is famous for his exuberant appreciation of nature's post-rain light display.

Derek Broes lives in Los Angeles. He is the former senior vice president of the digital division at Paramount Pictures and spent four years running global wireless strategy for Microsoft.

Possibly the only thing that Vasquez and Broes have in common: they are both running for president in 2012. And unless you happen to be Facebook friends with either man, you probably haven't noticed.

Votocracy: "Your personal campaign machine"

While mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney and President Obama are set to campaign and debate in person, candidates like Vasquez and Broes are stating their positions and taking questions on a Facebook app called Votocracy.

"The packaging that we're accustomed to in politics -- it's really difficult for that to survive in social media," says Votocracy founder and CEO Bryan Lee.

Networks like Facebook, he says, are "more connected, more human, more raw" than traditional campaigning.

Lee, who has held executive positions at both Sony and Microsoft, launched the platform on June 1. Since then, about 370 people have announced their intentions to run for president using it. The sign-up cost is $99, but don't worry if that's too rich for your blood. Candidates can start by putting as little as $1 toward this fee and collect the rest from their supporters.

Compare that to the $8,100 you would have to spend just to get on the ballot in all 50 states, according to the nonpartisan newsletter Ballot Access News.

Candidates collect supporters by getting people to "Like" their votocracy pages. Vasquez's page has about 50 such supporters. Broes's page has about 40. Right now, most candidates on the site have fewer than five supporters.

By 2012, there will be one official Votocracy candidate. The plan is to host online primaries for every state -- and Washington, D.C. -- to determine a winner from each. Then the 51 final contestants compete in a televised race that looks something like American Idol, although Votocracy doesn't have an official TV deal just yet.

To be president or to be heard?

Presidential prospects for anyone running on Votocracy seem slim. But that's not necessarily how the candidates see it.

"A new candidate will arise out of this," Broes says. "There will be new people that are recognized in the political arena because they didn't have to wiggle their way into the club to gain equal exposure and a serious evaluation of their ideas and points of view."

For Vasquez, who is running with the campaign slogan "Emergency! Alternative Energy!", the point of the race is less about being president and more about being heard.

"If people could pay attention to what I'm doing," he says in the same tone that made his rainbow video an instant YouTube sensation, "then maybe they'll have a revelation that these are the things that are important and we need to be focusing on them."

Social media & the American dream

Votocracy plans to help people connect on issues, by matching people based on similar political beliefs ("You might find out that Joe in Indiana or Tom in Kentucky answers questions like you do," says Lee).

But it also promises an American dream: "With Votocracy, anyone with the passion to run for president -- including you -- can get involved, get heard, and attract supporters from all across the country... without political experience or big financial backers," reads the app's homepage.

We have long been teaching our kids that anyone can be president of the United States. In a world that increasingly creates its own media, is this more likely? And if so, should we select our presidential candidates the same way that we select our pop idols?

"Our elected officials really reflect the media of the day," Lee says. "FDR was classically called the radio president, and then we had Kennedy and Reagan and Clinton who are television presidents. And when social media becomes the media of the day, it's going to be fun to see what kind of politician emerges from that."

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