Anything that Patrick Ruffini writes on the subject of using technology to return the GOP to majority party status immediately gets put on my must-reading list. Patrick posted something on the subject yesterday that I didn’t get to think through. I made reading and thinking it through a priority of my Saturday morning.

The starting point of Patrick’s post is Leon Wolf’s post that I also referenced. Further down in Patrick’s post is this nugget of wisdom that needs to be expanded on:

Attacking technology as a way to rebuild the party misses the point in another way. It assumes that technology is just a tool, that it doesn’t change the dynamics of the political process itself. And that it can’t be an instrument in nudging along the kind of change we all want on the issues and ideas front.

Were MoveOn.org and the netroots primarily about technology or ideology? The answer is both. They were instruments for the ideological “reformation” of the party that just happened to use technology. They were both successful because they tied technology to sense of political purpose, direction, and action.

EXACTLY RIGHT!!! This isn’t an either-or question. It’s a rare double-sided truth. One wouldn’t exist without the other.

There’s great potential for technology to change existing political dynamics. I suspect that we could’ve changed a number of US House and Senate races had the RNC been more tech savvy. We could’ve changed even more races if we hadn’t frittered away our credibility on fiscal restraint issues.

Here’s something else we need to think about:

Without technology, the Democrats’ path to power would have looked very, very different. Their purpose-driven use of technology sped up the process of giving the grassroots an ownership stake within the party and feeling like they could safely get involved in official Democratic politics again.

The current leadership models of the RNC and the Minnesota GOP are top-down, leadership knows best models. That definition is the opposite of grassroots activism. In fact, it tells us that they know best & we’re just obligated to follow their orders. That isn’t just a flawed system. It’s a fatally flawed system. It isn’t enough to just tinker around the edges.

It’s time we demolished the current model and instituted a new bottom-up model. This new model would insist on the RNC and the MNGOP making time and listening to the activists instead of talking down to them.

Any candidate for RNC Chairman who doesn’t subscribe to that thinking should be ignored. Any candidate for chairman of the MNGOP who doesn’t have a history of thinking outside the box should be immediately eliminated. Here’s why it’s important:

Right now, there is a poisonous divide between the official Republican Party and the grassroots. This is the inevitable consequence of the bailouts, spending, and Medicare Part D and probably couldn’t be any other way after eight years in the White House. But over the next few years, it has to be a goal to get the grassroots looped back into the party and in fact get them in the drivers’ seat shaping the ideas and priorities of the party. For an opposition to be effective, it must be united. This means breaking down or rendering irrelevant the elitist mindset of the political class that divides it from the grassroots, and working as one united Republican Party in the think tanks, on the ground, and online to be an effective foil to the Obama Administration.

If there’s anything that the MNGOP leadership does consistently, it’s that it doesn’t listen to local activists. They’re professionals at barking out orders that undercut the efforts of local activists. There isn’t a big difference between the MNGOP and the RNC in that respect.

It’s time that the inside-the-Beltway types at the RNC, along with the control freaks in the MNGOP, to actually start listening to local activists. Until that happens, local activists will be forced to go around the elitists in leadership.

The Army of Davids concept is totally lost on these people. I’ve seen too many bits of proof that showed the leadership thinks that they’re the only people who know what they’re talking about. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Utilizing Facebook, Twitter and other products will allow the activists to work around the leadership. That’s certainly what MoveOn.org did. We the People should be putting forth suggestions on what our message is. We should use these tools to sharpen and refine our message, too.

Until we eliminate the elitism that inhabits the leadership at the state party and the RNC, we won’t repair the ‘GOP brand’. That must be our first priority unless we want to be the minority party for a generation.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

3 Responses to “Message and Technology, Part III”

  • J. Ewing says:

    I disagree with your assessment of party leadership, for exactly the reasons you use to condemn them. The simple fact is that they do not use technology to enable them to manage the party “bottom up” and therefore are stuck in the old top down model. You can blame them for not using the tools that they could use, but not for managing the party with the best tools they have.

    Beyond that, you are absolutely right. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, has a slogan– “TICE.” It means “the Internet changes everything.” The instant and widespread development and dissemination of positions, plans and policies is a radical change to the operation of the Party, requiring only two things: An organizing purpose, and the will to use the technology to its fullest. So, how do we get there?

  • Gary Gross says:

    Jerry, It’s rather obvious that Ron Carey isn’t interested in hearing from anyone who has a different opinion than him. Technology isn’t the issue with him. He’s a control freak who doesn’t have the GOP’s best interests at heart.

  • eric z says:

    “Without technology, the Democrats’ path to power would have looked very, very different. Their purpose-driven use of technology sped up the process of giving the grassroots an ownership stake within the party and feeling like they could safely get involved in official Democratic politics again.”

    I don’t buy into that. I would say giving the grassroots the appearance of a stake, in exchange for campaign cash more than normally moving bottom up.

    What you are saying is more change happened among the Democrats than I expect happened. They won big two cycles, Bush-Cheney and war failures being a common thread. I expect the Dems will show during the Obama presidency whether that quote is correct or giving more credit than is due. I expect warmed over Clintonism, appointments already suggest that, and actual or far-reaching change would surprise me. The DC system is built to quell change. Too many have invested stakes in THAT not changing.

    Grassroots money raising, that happened, and with it the victors not being beholden to traditional wealth is possible – for either party.

    But will either entrenched party leadership want that? Will either do that? Is Obama different from business as usual that way?

    Along such lines, do you suppose Caroline Kennedy will be appointed Senator from New York? Privilege has more openly been a GOP thing, but it will be interesting to see first, will she be appointed, and then second, if appointed, how she will perform in her uncle’s shadow.

    On the GG – J.Ewing discussion, I think traditional leadership and technology are entirely independent. The military has bell-ringing technology, but also entrenched hierarchy.

    And Larry Ellison is not universally well regarded. Some see him as a Mark Cuban with more money. I prefer Kieth Ellison.

    I do not know Ron Carey, but I see his view of employing technology as giving Brodkorb credit for being in full lockstep with Ron Carey.

    I could be wrong, you guys know both of them better than I do.

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