“John Mellencamp for Senate” – Talking to the Man Behind the Online Movement

February 23rd, 2010 |


Soaking in the world and spitting it out, one blog post at a time. Consider me the Clark Kent of web stories without the cool glasses, the fancy suit and, well, the muscles.

While searching the web you come across strange stories, many of which offer some small amount of humor or a fleeting idea. I was surprised when one such story began to snowball down a media mountain, “John Mellencamp for Senate.” This simple and almost far fetched proposal quickly gained steam, receiving mentions in People.com, CNN, and MSNBC.

The idea came about after Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana announced that he would not seek a third term in the 2010 election and talk began surfacing on a Talking Points Memo comment board that the rocker would make a good replacement. John Mellencamp, a native son of Indiana, hasn’t denied nor supported the claim, but it wouldn’t be the first time he had a taste for politics. Mellencamp announced that he supported Barack Obama and asked the McCain camp to stop using his song “Our Country” during the last presidential election.

Supporters of Mellencamp for Senate have united on a Facebook page led by John Patterson. Below is my interview with Patterson himself, the man behind the online movement.

SR: How would you describe yourself?

JP: Living in Kansas, very much into politics, former Teamster and Railroad Workers union member,  father and grandfather,  former Congressional campaign adviser, blogger and a geek since the Commodore 64.  Former Deaniac, I am one of those who has been very pleased with our current president.

How did you hear about John Mellencamp and the possibility of him running for Senate?

A comment from regular blogger “Erica” at Talking Points Memo in the hour after Bayh announced his departure to that effect inspired me to build the Facebook page.

Can you tell us how this Facebook group was started?

It happened in about two hours following the “Erica” comment. If you follow that thread, I actually record the whole process as the day goes by on that same TPM blog. First, I went over and built the Facebook group and a Gmail account. That took about an hour. Then I wrote a generic intro letter and emailed it to my “lists,” blogged it at FDL, TPM, Truthdig, KOS, and The Fix. That took another half hour, then after that it just seemed to just roll out on its own. All that information and links to those threads are at the start of the Facebook page.

What would you say to people who might think the group is a joke?

Laugh while you can…

The group has grown substantially in a short time, did you ever think it would be mentioned on CNN, People, and MSNBC?

Never in a million years!  But that just shows how unpredictable the internet is. We expected a lotus to unfold, but we got a mini-big-bang. Had we expected such a response, we would have made it a fan group instead. We lost our ability to message the whole group when we hit 5,000 members, so now it depends on them looking into the organization like we want them to.

Of all the media attention, is there one that stands out?

The Village Voice piece was one of my personal favorites, but the Keith Olbermann interview with Brent Budowsky was probably the highlight. Also the Nation coverage and Jonathan Alter’s plug. Most of these actually provided a link to the Facebook page.

Along with a lot of support from the grass roots, there have been negative comments by people opposed to the idea of Mellencamp running. Why do you think that is?

I pledged that this page would be promotional, not political,  for what it is worth, and deleted some of the really egregious stuff that some very aggressive, ambitious young conservatives (at least according to their Facebook profiles) were posting. We had one woman from West Virginia who posted literal defamation of the worst sort, which was instantly removed. She wasn’t alone; it was a certified troll attack that went on throughout the first few hours. It finally subsided when they realized we weren’t a free-speech site, we were a promotional site.

I can’t say for certain, I think they were counting coup on “liberals” then bragging to their wingnut pals about it, at lest that was my gut feeling. But it was all just institutional trash talk. I have not read a single legitimate complaint or argument against Mellencamp. There are many who don’t wish the grief of DC on Mellencamp, and I agree personally. But they aren’t dissing Mellencamp, they are just sympathetic towards him (and his wife).

Do you think politicians are taking full advantage of social media tools like Facebook and/or Twitter?

I’ve managed or staffed or advised congressional campaigns since 2004 in California, Iowa and Kansas, and have yet to see a single candidate who actually lives in the 21st century. They are catching on, but I expect it will be the next 1/2 generation that actually catches the web wave. Joe Trippi midwifed that newborn, but Brown’s Mass campaign proves it has certainly matured.

Any  advice you give them in coming into the social networking world?

Trust your children. Respect them and their web acumen. I mean that very personally, I’ve seen more than one campaign where the smartest advisors involved weren’t the tediously entrenched political insiders (wheresoever’s the caucus, there will the vultures be gathered together) but the candidate’s own youngsters and their friends.

Will people will take John Mellencamp seriously as a politician?

If they want a better future for their children and grandchildren.

What would be John Mellencamp’s best selling point should he pursue this career change?

His American cliche’s. He literally wrote the vernacular of our patriotic subconscious. Add to that his in-your-face sincerity, and you have the makings of a political icon that laps the rock star.

Finally, if John runs, what song of his would best fit his campaign?

Too many options to pick one, but lately I have been moved by a new one, “Troubled Land.”

If the land weren’t so troubled, people like John Mellencamp wouldn’t have to cross over to help us save it. But here it is, we are in a terrible mess made by our status quo insider political traders, and we need him now to do just that.

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Sunil Ramsamooj