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You can be forgiven for not knowing who Mike Gravel is, even though he spent all last night earning the affection of left-leaning Twitter. Gravel is the former Democratic senator from Alaska who garnered a tenth of a percent in the New Hampshire presidential primaries in 2008 before bowing out and ran on an anti-imperialist platform.
And yet, #GravelGang is suddenly a thing online.
Hmm...#GravelGang. I like the sound of that.— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
Mike Gravel, it appears, is back. A populist progressive, Gavel has lobbied for direct democracy, universal healthcare, and withdrawal from entanglements abroad. He may have minimal name recognition, but he blew up Twitter by announcing he was running for the Democratic nomination, attacking just about every 2020 candidate for their inadequate stances on policies he’s held for a long time.
The 2020 Democratic field pretends to progressivism, but don't buy the lie. @KamalaHarris kept innocent men on death row. @JoeBiden voted for the Iraq War. @CoryBooker invented a drug dealer friend (and voted with Big Pharma).— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
And his tweets are gaining popularity. Gravel went after Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for Booker’s performance in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, highlighting his own activism on the Senate floor.
.@CoryBooker melodramatically declared releasing inconsequential files on Brett Kavanaugh his "Spartacus moment." This is me, in 1971, reading the Pentagon Papers into the record for hours on end, risking expulsion from the Senate. That's real courage, Cory. pic.twitter.com/DE2gQs3Huj— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
And he attacked Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for her support of the death penalty. Gravel’s also not terrible at pushing his ideas memetically, especially given that he’s 88.
#KillerKamalaHarris just came around to supporting marijuana legalization, even though she smoked it herself in college.— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
Meanwhile, I've served as the CEO of two marijuana companies.#GravelGang#Gravel2020https://t.co/uj35vUUuKR
He also flagged former Vice President Joe Biden’s support of the Iraq War.
And he worked in a solid dig at Amy Klobuchar.
There was even an explicit call for the jailing of Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, and Elliot Abrams, a popular plank in progressive circles (even if it’ll never happen). Gravel wants to take on the surveillance state and reverse the expansion of the imperial presidency, which became an accepted norm well before Trump.
Mike Gravel 2020 starter pack pic.twitter.com/E8OIJD2AD4— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
It's simply not enough to go back to "the pre-Trump normal." Because the pre-Trump normal meant drone strikes, forever, massacres, and mass surveillance. Pre-Trump gave us Trump. The way to escape the hell of Trump is by finding something better, not just returning to the old.— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
The former senator isn’t in it to win it, per se, but to make sure anti-interventionist ideals get the airtime they deserve.
If I run, I'd run not to win, but to push great candidates like @BernieSanders and @TulsiGabbard toward more sensible views on political reform and foreign policy through the debates. We need a strong left flank for strong policy.— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
This is a campaign to remake the Democratic Party, expand the Overton Window, and push other candidates leftward. And for that, we need your donations to qualify for the debates. Not right now, but SOON.— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) March 20, 2019
So please follow + please get everyone you know to follow.#GravelGang
Not being in it to win it isn’t a problem in 2020, anyway.
- Who’s going to challenge Trump in 2020? Here are the early contenders
- Could Bernie Sanders win in 2020?
- Where does Beto O’Rourke stand on policy?
Thanks to changes to the primary process, the DNC greatly lowered the thresholds for the debate stage, meaning that someone like Gravel could end up challenging candidates on air. All he needs is 65,000 people to donate to his campaign.
And if the past year has been any indication, even a small group of people stridently supporting a position can have a huge impact on the platforms of other candidates.
UPDATE 1:03pm CT, March 20: According to a Politico reporter, the campaign is the brainchild of a couple of shitposting teens.
He said he'll decide after he meets with the students on if he'll run, but "they need to persuade my wife." I asked him if he knew about the exploratory committee: "They asked me if it was okay, I said they could do what they wanted, as long as they were doing it and not me!"— Zach Montellaro (@ZachMontellaro) March 20, 2019
Splinter spoke with David Oks, who said he was inspired after Gravel’s was mentioned on an episode of Chapo Trap House.
“My friends and I were encouraging him to consider running for president with the idea being that he would not try to contest any primaries, he would just try to get into the Democratic debates.”
David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]