Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) made his foray into the world of Reddit on Monday. It wasn’t exactly a smashing success.
This morning, O’Malley launched a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread, which has recently become the go-to activity for politicians and celebrities seeking to bolster their Internet bonafides.
It’s supposed to go like this: Redditors ask questions on a host of subjects, and O’Malley answers as many as possible. Hopefully, some of those responses are interesting or revelatory.
The Maryland governor, who has made his presidential ambitions pretty clear, answered nearly two dozen questions, all of which left something to be desired. The metrics of Reddit votes are ever-changing, but as of early afternoon, some of O'Malley's answers had drawn dozens of down votes, Reddit's way of gauging the community sentiment. However, the entire AMA was still given up-votes by 64 percent.
And even the lighthearted questions drew staid answers. (What is the record number of crab cakes O'Malley has eaten? "I don't eat competitively," was the answer.)
Among Redditors, the consensus seemed to be that O’Malley missed the point.
“Lots of hard questions with very few responses from the Governor. I suspect he’s regretting his decision to do this…,” wrote one user, vivnsam, in one of the most up-voted post in the AMA thread.
Maryland governor & future presidential candidate Martin O'Malley did a Reddit AMA this morning. It went poorly. http://t.co/6pvcRg0uNE
— David G. Heiser (@davidheiser) May 5, 2014
O’Malley probably deserves some points for the effort. (He announced that he had to leave the AMA to go sign a new minimum-wage bill into law.) He is also among the still small cohort of politicians who have even ventured to that part of the Internet.
Arguably, the site (and its signature AMAs) went from obscurity to mainstream prominence after President Obama’s 2012 AMA drew record-breaking traffic. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that politicians have a hard time straying from talking points, even on a platform intended to be candid and casual.
But O’Malley’s mixed AMA experience should probably be a warning that just showing up isn’t enough, particularly on a platform as unpredictable (and cynical) as Reddit.
AMA's are notoriously difficult to control, with hundreds or even thousands of people commenting, voting on individual comments and voting on the entire AMA.
For the curious, here are the five of the most popular questions and answers from O’Malley’s AMA (according to Reddit, which included these among the "best" comments from the AMA session):
Question: Why are you against marijuana legalization?
Answer: I signed decriminalization for small amounts of possession this year, signed medical marijuana last year, and another medical marijuana bill this year. I believe it's best for Maryland to learn from experiments underway in Colorado and Washington and to be guided according to whether more good than harm is done.
Question: Hi Gov. O'Malley. When I first moved to Baltimore, I met you at a gay bar while you were still the Mayor. Were you ever worried that your interest in the well being of the gay community would damage your political career?
Answer: I believe in the dignity of every individual. In Maryland, we passed marriage equality. And this month, we will sign a transgender anti-discrimination bill.
Question: My boyfriend, my little brother (14) and I are coming to visit Baltimore for the first time this summer. What is the #1 thing the governor reccommends [sic] we do while there?
Answer: Visit Fort McHenry, birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner. This is the bicentennial of the Defense of Baltimore. It's easy to get to from 95 and 895 tunnels. Truly a spiritual experience. Learn more, visit starspangled200.org
Question: How many crab cakes have you devoured as a record?
Answer: I don't eat competitively.
Question: Do you like lacrosse?
Answer: Yes, my 11-year-old son plays lacrosse. Lacrosse is the official team sport of Maryland! It's easier for kids to get into than jousting.
UPDATED: This post has been changed to correct the number of questions O'Malley answered.
UPDATE 2: O'Malley returned to the post around 1:15 p.m. Eastern time to answer more questions after his bill signing. To his credit, O'Malley even engaged with some of his (many) trolls from earlier in the morning:
Check out the full exchange here.