Republicans are supposed to be the pro-market and pro-business party but the GOP is operating like Castro’s Cuba or Stalinist Russia. Imagine if McDonald’s kept its menu and stores the same since the company’s founding. Customers might ask for salads, or gourmet coffee or playgrounds or drive up windows or chicken sandwiches, but no, we’re McDonald’s. We have golden arches, hamburgers, walk in locations and french fries. Take it or leave it.
If McDonald’s did this they’d have been long gone a long time ago. What brings this to mind is an amazing piece in The New York Times Magazine penned by Robert Drapper entitled “Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?” What the piece is about is the business of politics.
And believe me winning elections is a business. Obama has won the last two elections through his aggressive and smart use of social media. You know social media, that thing old guys either don’t know about or think is a waste of time. Well it turns out that it’s dandy for mobilizing people, especially young people: Whether you’re trying to attract a critical mass to your Friday night keg party, or rounding up campaign volunteers.
While 2,000 progressives attended RootsCamp, “an annual series of seminars hosted by the New Organizing Institute, where the most cutting-edge digital and grass-roots organizing techniques are discussed,” conservatives remain glued to Fox TV or are listening to Rush Limbaugh on radio. Radio? Is that like Pandora?
Patrick Ruffini told Drapper, “The thing I was struck by at RootsCamp was that in many ways, the Democratic technology ecosystem has embraced the free market — whereas the Republican one sort of runs on socialism, with the R.N.C. being the overlord.”
Liberals not only have RootsCamp, they have New Media Boot Camp. Republicans have nothing like it. Yeah, there are Republican techies, but they all want to go make money. And why not, if the R.N.C. has an iron grip on not only the message but the delivery. Michael Turk tells Drapper,
“They all wanted to make money,” he said. “And so as a result, Katie Harbath, who was one of my deputies at the R.N.C., is now at Facebook, and Mindy Finn” — a longtime G.O.P. digital operative — “is at Twitter, and Patrick and I each started our own companies. We all found ways to parlay that into a living for our families, as opposed to just doing it for the cause.”
Turk makes the point that techies are almost universally libertarian leaning. Well that means they should have some sympathy for a smaller government Republican message. They do, but they “can’t get past the gay-marriage ban, the abortion stance, all of these social causes.”
Tech-types “don’t want to be part of an organization that puts them squarely on the wrong side of history,” says Turk.
Ideas don’t win elections. Execution wins elections. David Plouffe, tech guru, for the Obama campaigns explains the need for digital technology in campaigns,
“Not having that is like Nixon not shaving before his first debate — you’ve got to understand the world you’re competing in. Our thinking always was, We don’t want people when they interact with the Obama campaign to have it be a deficient experience compared to how they shop or how they get their news. People don’t say, ‘Well, you’re a political campaign, so I expect you to be slower and less interesting.’ Right? We wanted it to be like Amazon. And I still don’t think the Republicans are there.”
The entire world is competing with Amazon. It’s a one-click world, a 140-character twitter world. Democrats know their customers and know how to reach out for more. The Right is not only hopelessly behind, but not really interested.
Bret Jacobson, Republican digital guru, gave a presentation at the R.N.C. winter conference. The talk was well received by the 30 people who attended.
Government is going to get bigger, much bigger, before economic realities bury the progressive agenda.