By Allen Wolfe

For supporters of presidential candidate John Kerry, the day after the 2004 presidential election might be remembered as a day of disappointment and lost hope. However, a few tried to do something about it.

One of those individuals was Joseph Anthony, a paralegal working out of Los Angeles. Anthony decided that his spirit would not be broken by another election, and endorsed the man he saw as the next great leader.

Shortly after the 2004 election results ,Anthony started a MySpace page for Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), with the sought-after address of www.myspace.com/barackobama.

According to Obama’s official campaign site (not the MySpace page), a philosophy is upheld in support of individual activism and political participation. A receptionist for the Obama campaign said that Obama “enthusiastically encourages grassroots activism!”

However, recent actions of this campaign have led many supporters to question these values.

After Obama announced his run for the presidency, Anthony started working closely with the campaign, heeding their advice and making necessary changes. As the webpage became more popular, with an astonishing amount of friends — surpassing 160,000 — Obama’s campaign sought increased control over Anthony’s operation.

According to Joshua Levy, associate editor of a personal democracy forum called TechPresident.com, this is not unusual for a presidential campaign.

“Obama’s campaign, like most other campaigns, feels the need to clamp down tightly to control the message,” Levy said.

In a bitter power struggle between Anthony, the Obama campaign, and MySpace, the campaign was given full control.

Despite losing control of his webpage, Anthony has not lost the respect of other Internet activists.

“I think most online activists are in full support of Joe Anthony and feel his pain regarding the top-down structures of political campaigns,” Levy remarked, contrasting Obama’s top-down tactics with Howard Dean’s campaign that has a “radically decentralized structure.”

Levy also pointed out possible negative effects this action might have on Obama’s campaign. People might begin to think that the Obama campaign is acting in a manner contradictory to their previous commitment to support individual activism.

Anthony, on his own online blog, wrote about the campaign not only taking control from him, but about him losing faith in the reason why he started the page: to get ordinary people active in politics.

Matt Stoller, co-editor of My Direct Democracy — www.MyDD.com — a group blog designed to discuss the progressive movement and political power in America, regards the message Obama’s campaign is projecting to individual activists as less than supportive.

Stoller, based in Washington, D.C., is an activist and a consultant for the Sunlight Foundation, Free Press, and Working Assets. While working with the Democratic National Convention, Stoller has witnessed many acts of individual politicking squashed by top-down tactics.

Stoller does not believe that this controversy will deter grassroots activism.

“If it’s a one-time event, then it won’t matter … but if it is repeated, it will,” he said.

The significance of Internet politics is an emerging phenomenon that is “just getting started,” according to Levy and the personal democracy forum.

Individuals like Anthony are emulating the force of ordinary people in upcoming elections, Levy said. Anthony’s actions and those of others like him have “shown what kind of [an] impact online activists will have in this campaign.”

Stoller speaks to advocates of change when he references a broad focus of community building relying on “a connection among other supporters … power comes from the people, not from candidates.”