Saturday, January 23, 2010

Republicans Haven't Won the Internet in Ohio

Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn have a fascinating piece about GOP web efforts, but I really want to point out this bit to our friends in Columbus:
Before the GOP's recent grass-roots revival, top-down thinking was on full display in many campaigns for which we worked. Even after the Obama campaign's initial success online in 2008, Republican staffers responded to our calls for a movement-based approach with a dismissive tone. "We don't care about building a base," said one. "We care about raising money."

Even among the GOP consultants and top strategists who paid lip service to the Internet, it was, to many of them, simply another avenue for executing a dusty playbook, written in a different era. In many campaigns, even today, there's an unspoken assumption that though Facebook, Twitter and a Web site are necessary, they also are not terribly consequential (except as online ATM machines). The "real" work of politics goes on behind closed doors, in fundraisers, where progress is measured in increments of $2,400.
The Ohio GOP is STILL top-down thinking and tolerant only of views that get their stamp of approval.  The political operative class in this state STILL think of the internet as an ATM and not as a tool to organize.
Granted,  the Ohio GOP has been trying a lot of new things on the web.  But I think the key component that makes social networking and new media work has been missing: the people.

Recently, the Kasich-Taylor has made some important baby steps in the right direction.  And I have seen a few moves made by the Ohio House Republicans that show some glimmers of hope.  But for the most part, Ohio Republicans are still playing the same games with the same rules just in a new location.

But don't take my word for it, my friends...I'm just a silly blogger living in my mom's basement while tapping away at my computer in my pajamas.........  (That's sarcasm, by the way.  I have to let some people know these things because they have no sense of humor.)

UPDATE:  Oh, here's another point worth considering...
In the wake of the 2008 election, after four years of aloofness from most of our party's leaders about the role of new media and technology in electoral politics, we took a break from the day to day of campaigns and thought seriously about how to help our party move forward.

We outlined a strategy; it had a lot to do with technology, but it wasn't just about social networking, e-mail list management or YouTube. We talked about decentralizing the GOP and running a candidate in all 435 congressional districts. That got us some bewildered reactions: I thought this was about the Internet -- what's this about running in every district?

Such responses revealed a mind-set that for too long has prevented the party from innovating: wedded to the status quo and out of touch with the American experience. (One could draw parallels to the policy front as well.)
I emphasized the key point...
Empowering the rank and file is what social networking and the new media are all about.  I'll know that our friends in Columbus have finally attended enough seminars on the subject when they start talking about decentralizing the Ohio GOP and start helping the grassroots instead of making things more difficult.

UPDATE 2: And here is a message for and about my good friend (a prosecutor, not a politician...) Dave Yost:
The Internet isn't a line item in a campaign budget anymore. It's not just something you have to pay for, underneath catering and radio ads. It has reorganized the way Americans do everything -- including elect their leaders. Candidates who would have had no chance before the Internet can now overcome huge odds, with the people they energize serving as the backbone of their campaign.
Of course, you can't play musical chairs with these people. I'm just saying...

UPDATE 3: Over on Facebook, my very good friend and fellow Alliance blogger, Maggie Thurber says this:
Matt - Patrick is right (as usual) and you and I know that the ORP could use some of the ideas bloggers have given them in the past. While they're trying, they're missing the point because they're still thinking it has to come from THEM.

I think fear has a lot to do with it. The party structure cannot control the message, the money or the strategy if they empower others. They fear the loss of control.

What they fail to realize is that empowering others is a core philosophical tenet of our Republican Party. If they cannot do it with their supporters, what makes any of us think our their hand-picked candidates will do it with the government offices they seek to run?
Well said, Maggie!