Matt Moon's blog

What Will the Future of Mobile Messaging Mean for the Future of Get-Out-the-Vote Operations?

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Let's take time to think about how we can get ahead of the strategic curve in the long term while coming up with tactics to win in the short term.

Hat tip to Katie Harbath for tweeting this news item: "Three-Quarters of the World's Messages Sent By Mobile"

"According to TNS Global, 74% of the world’s digital messages were sent through a mobile device in January 2009, a 15% increase over the previous year.

"As for developed countries, the PC e-mail remains the most popular message method, but its use is waning.

"In Japan, 40 out of 100 e-mails sent are from a mobile device. In North America, 69% of those using e-mail on their mobile phone use it daily, high compared with 43% worldwide."

I've written previously about the Pew Internet & American Life Project's "Future of the Internet Report," which has two interesting observations: (1) the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020, and (2) the divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who is connected, and the results will be mixed in their impact on basic social relations. The National Taxpayers Union put things to practice recently, launching a text messaging advocacy service, a creative tool to enhance that organization's grassroots operations.

Rebuilding our party doesn't only mean taking an inventory of every tool that's available and seeing how those tools fit campaigns and party organizations today; it also means seeing what the trends might be 5, 10 or 20 years from now and creating tools that can put us ahead of the curve. I do not have the proper fusing of sufficient technical skills with amazing creativity that many programmers and coders do ... which is why Code Red has been launched.

So despite my relative technical ignorance, I think a few observations need to be made about how campaigns might be affected, and where can campaigns might go, with increased use of mobile messaging. Yes, all parts of the campaign will be affected from communications on down. But increased use of mobile devices by voters to get most of their information will have a special impact on GOTV operations:

  • Voter identification, persuasion and GOTV efforts will have to be more integrated. With personal and work time being merged as well as physical and virtual reality, campaigns and party organizations will have to embark on a long term, on-going voter identification efforts to see when and how often they receive messages and Internet content.
  • With social networking sites and programs going mobile, GOTV messages will have to balance simplicity with engaging material. GOTV messages won't only come in the form of SMS and MMS. These alerts will come via Facebook and Twitter as well, where more and more this social networking activity takes place on iPhones and BlackBerries. Sending simple information on polling locations as well as early and mail-in ballot voting will have to become more easily searchable on any mobile device. Voters will also want a quick and easy way to engage with the campaign or party organization if they want to: a mobile version of an "action center" will have to be developed.
  • As more and more messages are sent via mobile devices, the tools developed by campaigns and party organizations might need to expand horizontally to include different versions for different devices. The Obama app for the iPhone has somewhat started this thought. As the web will play a greater role in helping campaigns organically enhance their grassroots activism, those with different devices will need different versions of tools to suit their personal needs when receiving GOTV messages and spreading those messages to their neighbors, co-workers and family members.

Those are just some of my thoughts. I may be right. I may be way off base. How do you think campaigns will change with increased use of mobile devices?

In the meantime, reminds us all about the basics of GOTV ... Go Tedisco! 

Who Dropped the Ball On This?!?!

From John Hawkins at Right Wing News ...

I was talking to a very credible Capitol Hill source (who wishes to remain anonymous) today and that person told me a story that just blew my mind. Well actually, it should have blown my mind, but unfortunately, it is the sort of laziness and terrible messaging that we have too often seen from the Republican Party of late.

He told me the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's 19th Annual Legislative Conference will be taking place next week in DC.

Here's the kicker: supposedly, the Democrats have 20 senators scheduled to attend various events and receptions. The Republicans? Are you ready for this? They have no senators currently scheduled to attend. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

As a Republican and an ethnic minority, I've said before that I really hate the paradigm of the "hyphenated American" and I hate talking about race and politics in such limiting terms. I truly think that what we see as ethnic minority voting blocs do not want to be treated as blocs. We can reach out to ethnic minorities, in large groups or individually, not by talking about their identity, but by talking about the importance of freedom and opportunity. Most importantly, ethnic minority outreach means "reaching out" to them where they are, not inviting them to where we are. But it doesn't mean pandering to them based on rhetoric tied to their identity.

But we still have to embrace the reality that communities are formed around common identities while also coming up with an agenda that can reach out to all communities. Apparently, GOPers on the Hill can't even get step number one done: showing up!

A message to GOP candidates and campaigns at the state and local level: follow the lead of 27-year-old Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) who in each of his races was not afraid to go into "urban areas" not only to campaign, but to listen to people's concerns and have a dialogue with voters. Visit the African-American church and knock on the door of an African-American family in your town. Attend a Hispanic community meeting and visit an Hispanic-owned small business in your district. Go to Asian-American potlucks and attend PTA meetings where Asian-, African-, Hispanic-Americans, etc. gather to talk about their children's education.

Don't preach. Don't lecture. Don't get impatient. Listen. Converse. Engage. Be willing to learn from their perspective, both as an American citizen and as a member of their community. And, please, just show up!

The Young Conservatives Coalition: An Opportunity to Reshape and Restructure the Movement

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Message to young conservatives who are tired of being told that they're the future of the movement -- it's our turn!

Patrick Ruffini has focused on how Republicans on electoral entrepreneurship, and Rebuild the Party was born. Jon Henke has encouraged political and public policy entrepreneurship, and it encouraged me to focus on building a new theme for an agenda that the Right can move forward with: an agenda of equal opportunity. We did these things because we saw the need for a fundamental change for the Right, the Republican Party and conservatives in how we run campaigns, to formulate policy, to communicate principles, etc.

But when it comes to the conservative movement (the people, the organizations, the institutions), it seems as though some of the status quo leaders are still in the wilderness: still wanting to run a 1980s version of an election, still harkening back to Reagan, still valuing old methods of communication, and (most disappointingly) still shunning any intellectualism. Nothing confirmed these feelings more than going to CPAC today: looking at the agenda, attending some panels and speeches, and roaming through the halls of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

I'm not sure that we're sending the right message about how best to advance conservatism to many of the students and young people attending CPAC. As Daniel Ruwe points out, if and when conservatives do have the White House and Congress again, it's not guaranteed that Republican control of government will lead to less of it. As Daniel asks: is it possible to advance conservatism?

Well, young people now have an opportunity to share their ideas on how to reshape and restructure the conservative movement: the Young Conservatives Coalition ...

In order to educate and articulate conservatism to a new American generation of voters and activists, a representative group of young professional conservatives in the Washington, DC area have formed the Young Conservative Coalition (YCC). They will formally launch their organization during their "Rebuilding the Movement" Brainstorming Session at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this Friday, February 27th from 10-11 AM at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in the Palladian Ballroom in Washington, DC.

"The YCC is an advocacy organization dedicated to leading the next generation of the conservative movement by organizing and mobilizing young professional conservatives across the country," stated YCC President Christopher Malagisi. "It's our turn to step up and start taking a greater leadership role within the movement by harnessing the power and ingenuity of young conservatives, while at the same time dispelling the myth that all voters under the age of 40 are liberals."

I am a charter member of YCC, and was a part of coming up with the Lake Anna Declaration, a platform for young conservatives to look to for 2009. I don't like everything in the platform, and a few things that I would've liked to see in the platform aren't in there. But the fact is that it should serve as a baseline for how the conservative movement can advance our principles in creative ways, and even promote healthy debate over how to formulate sound public policy.

There's one thing in the platform that I think all of us can agree with:

Every challenge facing the American people does not require a federal office and federal funding, especially during times of economic uncertainty.

For those of you at CPAC, please join the launch of the Young Conservative Coalition tomorrow morning, participate in "Rebuilding the Movement" brainstorming session and make your voice heard. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be joining us.

Why did I join the YCC? Simple. I'm tired of being told that I'm the future of the movement. I'm here now. I'm ready now. Yes, this is only the first step towards reshaping the conservative movement, but it will be a great start!

According to My Alma Mater, Pro-Free Market Folks Like Me Are Completely Delusional

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: It's time for the Right to become smarter in places where we're typically uncomfortable.

Hat tip to Jon Henke who tweeted this post from Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute:

I don’t know whether this belongs in the comic-relief category or the future-threats category, but the Harvard Law School is having a conference to analyze the “free market mindset.” The basic premise of the conference seems to be that people who believe in limited government are psychologically troubled.

The conference schedule features presentations such as “How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community” and “Addicted to Incentives: How the Ideology of Self Interest Can Be Self-Fulfilling.” The most absurd presentation, though, may be the one entitled, “Colossal Failure: The Output Bias of Market Economies.” According to the description, the author argues that the market “delivers excessive levels of consumption.” Damn those entrepreneurs for creating so much wealth!

I came out of Harvard with an undergraduate and graduate degree. This is one of the few times where I was shocked and not surprised at the same time when I read the introduction to this conference:

What is it about free markets that proves - and still continues to prove - so alluring to economists, scholars, and policy-makers alike?

The March 7 conference to take place at Harvard Law School, brings together leading scholars in law, economics, social psychology, and social cognition to present and discuss their research regarding the historical origins, psychological antecedents, and policy consequences of the free market mindset. Their work illustrates that the magic of the marketplace is partially an illusion based on faulty assumptions and outmoded approaches.

Fortunately, there are a few folks at Harvard, like economics professor Robert Barro, who keep people honest. Here's what he says in a recent Tax Foundation podcast:

The economy did very well for the next several years after the tax cuts of 2003. And it's very unfair that Obama has blamed that program for part of the current financial collapse. There's really no linkage between the tax rate cutting program of 2003 and the financial and housing collapse we've seen in recent months.

Yes, the concept of this conference at Harvard Law School is crazy. But there's a larger point to be made here. On this blog, we've talked a lot about the way forward for conservatives and the GOP. When it comes to elections, the argument has been made that we have to reach out to new places (places that we have ignored) to grow our base and communicate a new conservative message: urban areas, African-American churches, ethnic community meetings, etc. When it comes to public policy, the argument has been made that we need use principles of old to come up with new solutions for new times and new crises.

The point is that we must argue for our free market principles and new solutions in places where we feel most uncomfortable: i.e. the academic arena. We can't be afraid of taking on the liberal supermajority in academia, nor should we be afraid of trying to cultivate conservative intellectuals at colleges and universities. It isn't enough to have think tanks that act as safe havens of intellectual freedom for conservatives. And sure, we need to find creative ways to explain the complexities of the free market. The fact is that (1) more conservatives need to welcome intellectual thought and debate, and (2) more conservatives need to take the fight to the academic world. The Right needs to make itself relevant in places where it is currently seen as irrelevant, instead of sticking to places where we feel comfortable.

Oddly enough, I say this on the eve of the biggest kumbaya/"singing to the choir event" for the Right: CPAC.

LIVE BLOG: President Obama's Address to Congress and Questions to Ask

* 10:12 EST PM *

Republican Leadership: The President of the United States has mastered rhetoric, storytelling, artificial confidence-building, and the ability to come off as someone with candor even though he has contradicted himself several times during his address. Will you be pro-freedom or Anti-Obama? Will you be in a reactionary position or a pro-action stance? Will you put message over policy or policy over message?

Republican Leadership: Will you offer ground-breaking ideas to President Obama before he offers his own?

Mr. President: Congratulations on your first address to Congress as President. If Republicans offer their ideas, will you seriously consider them, or will you continue to mask the lack of substantive bipartisanship with procedural bipartisanship (i.e. inviting them to White House Super Bowl parties)?


* 10:03 PM EST *

Mr. President: You say that you will end "direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them." Can you define "large" and "need" for the American people?

Mr. President: When it comes to making decisions on national security, do you believe in the sovereignty of the United States over international bodies that have no enforcement powers?


* 9:58 PM EST *

Mr. President: Exactly where in the tax code does it specify tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas?


* 9:52 PM EST *

Mr. President: I agree with you that education is important. Do you believe it's important to keep teachers accountable? Do you believe that bad teachers and administrators need to be fired?

Mr. President: Do you believe that college is appropriate for everybody?

Republican Leadership: Will you fight to protect the successful DC school voucher system?


* 9:45 PM EST *

Mr. President: Why is it up to government to determine the alternative energies that need to be used? Why is it up to government to determine the market cap on carbon?

Mr. President: When is an industry "too big too fail" or "too important to fail"? What makes the car industry more important than any other industry in America? Why should we reward an industry that is rooted in a bad business plan while plenty of small businesses in America have great business plans but are struggling because of the economic downturn?


* 9:39 PM EST *

Mr. President: You say that your budget will be a "blueprint for America's future." Why do you believe that our plan for America's future has to be completely quantitative?

Republican Leadership: Have you learned your lesson your time in the majority? Will you notice that the qualitative structure of government programs is more important than the amount of money you throw at these agencies?


* 9:32 PM EST *

Mr. President: You say you want to get rid of waste in government bureacracy. What is your definition of "waste"?

Mr. President: If economic recovery will be determined by regaining a proper flow of credit, why didn't you focus on lending in your first month as President instead of a spending bill of which less than a fifth will actually be spent this fiscal year?

Mr. President: Do you believe housing is so important that it deserves a further bailout of bad mortgages in the short term and a distortion in the tax code through the mortgage interest deduction in the long term?

Mr. President: Do you believe in the concept of moral hazard?


* 9:25 PM EST *

Mr. President: How can you talk about the wrongful actions of those who put short term gains over long term prosperty when the stimulus does exactly that? You say that the stimulus will create or save 3.5 million jobs. How exactly will you calculate a saved job?

Republican Leadership: If the tax "cut" provisions (which really are tax expenditures) in the stimulus were in a stand alone bill without the rest of the spending, would you have voted for that stand alone bill?


* 9:21 PM EST *

Mr. President: Who will rebuild? Who will recover? And who will emerge stronger than before? Will it be government? Or will it be our economy? Why do you feel that it's your job - the government's job - to pick who will rebuild and who will recover through your stimulus package?


* 8:56 PM EST *

Over three months have passed since the election, and a month since the inauguration. The new Congress and the new administration have successfully committed the single largest legislative generational theft in American history, otherwise known as the stimulus. Some Republican governors gave in. Congressional Republicans have taken a great stand against the stimulus, but have failed to come up with solid alternatives to promote economic growth.

Even worse, Republican leaders seem to have given up on trying to communicate complicated, but critical principles to proper governing: eliminating moral hazard, promoting long term economic growth vs. short term Keynesian countercyclical fiscal policy, reducing distortions and complexity in the tax code, targeting market failures instead of targeting the market. We are very close to conceding to Democrats that we should talk about how best to get government involved in everything, instead of talking about where government should or should not be involved at all.

I, for one, am very glad that Governor Bobby Jindal will be representing Republicans tonight in the response to President Obama's address to Congress. He has the best combination of both worlds: the ability to communicate simply with the average voter while also championing pragmatic intellectualism within public policy formulation. I just wish there was more opportunities for one-on-one debate within the political process between all branches and all levels of government.

Tonight, as I live blog the President's address to Congress, I will do so by using a favorite debate tactic of mine: asking questions. And I won't just pose questions to the President. I'll also be posing questions to the Republican leadership. So to those on both the left and the right who read this blog, feel free to answer any of these questions or come up with any relevant questions you might have.

For Those on the Center-Right, How Do You Feel About Government-Run Gambling?

I saw an ad on the Metro this morning from, a project of the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy (CEEL) ...

It got me thinking: gambling is one of those issues where there are two distinct opinions on the Right. Libertarians argue that all forms gambling should be legalized. Social conservatives argue that the negative externalities and social consequences overwhelm any argument for the freedom to gamble. Some states have extensive licensing for gambling (like Nevada and New Jersey) and other states have strict restrictions or prohibitions on it (Utah and Alaska).

Both sides have valid arguments on gambling itself. But what about government-run/government-monopoly gambling for the purposes of raising revenue for their general funds?

Last November, Maryland passed a ballot initiative allowing for government-run video lottery terminals to raise money for education. Gerald Prante and Alicia Hansen of the Tax Foundation wrote opposing views on government-run slots a day before the election. Prante argued for passage, saying that while "under an ideal fiscal system in Maryland, slots would be permitted to operate freely and the rate of return in the marketplace would be close to competitive," the current prohibition is an implicit tax and passage could eventually lead to a free market for slots. Hansen argued against passage, noting that any government-run gambling is actually a hidden tax that's regressive and non-neutral.

With many states in fiscal crises, lawmakers are looking for new ways to raise revenue. Aside from any of your feelings on gambling itself, how do you, as someone on the center-right, feel about government-run gambling as a way to raise revenue? I look forward to the answers.

We Don't Need a Chairman. We Need Leaders. Part 2: An Open Letter to Chairman Michael Steele

In Part 1, written earlier this month, I focused on the need for not only the chairman, but all members of the RNC, to develop multiple leaders in campaign operations, policy, communications, fundraising and technology.

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Congratulations on your victory today. Your ascension to the chairmanship of the GOP is not only historic in nature; it also shows that many of the members of the RNC (as well as many of us in the grassroots and netroots of the party) were yearning for something different.

As someone who cares deeply about the issues surrounding ethnicity in America, I sincerely hope that the legacy of your chairmanship is not defined by your race, but by your efforts to move this party in a new direction. May you be remembered many election cycles from now, not as the first African-American chairman, but as a chairman who led with conviction and creativity during a time of transition.

One interesting thing to note is the process that we witnessed today. It took six ballots to get yourself elected, and it was still a close vote: 91-77. Whether this shows a split within the committee when it comes to strategy or personality, there does seem to be a split. I not only encourage you to reach out to all members of the RNC; I not only encourage you to reach out to conservative grassroots leaders that work within or without their state and local parties. I encourage you to have an honest exchange of ideas with Republicans across this country, and move this party from one that feeds off of anti-intellectualism to one that encourages political innovation and entrepreneurship.

You have endorsed the Rebuild the Party plan, and I will hold you to your pledge to implement this plan. There are many components to the plan that Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn have built. Let me focus on three things that I feel are especially important.

Hold campaigns and local parties accountable. Patrick and Mindy give specific goals for Congressional and Senate races when it comes to raising money and recruiting online activists. Here's what I would like to see. Ask every state and local party to give specific grassroots, electoral and fundraising goals. Publish those goals online. Reward parties that exceed expectations. Hold accountable those parties that fail to meet their goals. Shame works just as well as potential victory when it comes to incentivizing hard work and smart strategy.

Time for a new fundraising model. The plan calls for our 2012 Presidential nominee to be in a position to raise over 50% of their money online. The old model relies on the assumption that you have to raise money first in order to win supporters. Wrong! The Obama campaign taught us that with a true "movement" campaign, you want to gain supporters, and then get them to donate and volunteer, not necessarily in large amounts, but in smaller amounts over and over again. Qualitative characteristics of a fundraising model should matter just as much (maybe even more) than the quantitative characteristics. Just as "online activities" should not be a separate department within any party, fundraising and "the ask" should be integrated in as many facets of a campaign as possible.

When it comes to keeping state parties accountable, don't stop at Congress. It should be obvious to us that the state legislative and city council seats must be our farm team to develop leaders that can move up politically. But there's another important reason to focus on positions like Secretary of State and smaller legislative bodies like school boards. Decisions made closest to the people are critical, yet underreported. State and local governments truly are the laboratories of democracy, and we need good conservatives to run the public policy experiments.

Mr. Steele, promise me you will do two simple things: lead and develop leaders. Provide objectives and a vision, and inspire our grassroots to find new ways to achieve those objectives. Once again, congratulations!


Matt Moon

"Re-Inspiring" the Base Does Not, By Itself, Lead to Victory

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: I am part of the base. But taking a static view of our base will kill, not build, our party.

This morning, American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform held their Newsmaker Breakfast which was supposed to feature RNC Chair candidate Ken Blackwell, who has been endorsed by many conservatives and RedState. Because Blackwell was stuck in Ohio due to the weather, Louisiana GOP chairman Roger Villere and John Yob were there to represent the Blackwell campaign.

Let me briefly go over some of the positives I took away from this morning's meeting. First, Ken Blackwell's framing of the fundamental change that's needed within the RNC as a "shareholder revolt" is both accurate and bold. The grassroots within (and not within) state and local party organizations have to buy into the objectives and new strategy that the next chairman will bring. Second, I'm glad that Blackwell endorsed the plan within his own plan. Third, he's a former Secretary of State and could be helpful in voter turnout and anti-voter fraud efforts, if he's elected or not. Fourth, as the only candidate in the race with extensive experience as a candidate for public office, he could have some understanding of how to recruit and train candidates.

But some of the things Villere and Yob mentioned this morning bothered me.

First, Yob repeated several times that Blackwell's number one priority is to "inspire the base." Blackwell's own plan asserts that "an inspired base will lead to more volunteers, greater fundraising, and higher voter turnout." Nothing could be further from the truth. I understand why Blackwell is making this the standard line in his campaign: he's trying to appeal to the so-called "leadership" of the status quo base ... the members of the Republican National Committee. Not only does Blackwell blur the line between policymaking and electoral strategy building within his own plan. Taking this static view of our base, that it's our existing core of 30% of the electorate that we should depend on, is downright infuriating. Blackwell's plan does state that "we must once again begin educating the public about the moral superiority of limited government over the concept of big government socialism." Therefore, the number one priority shouldn't be inspiring the base by itself; it should be about growing the base by finding new and creative ways to articulate our principles, and to integrate voter contact, voter identification and voter persuasion projects. It's not time to rebuild the Reagan coalition of old. It's time to recalibrate, recalculate the electorate as it exists today, and build a new coalition to win elections.

Second, after it was mentioned that current chairman Mike Duncan used the Joseph Cao victory in the Louisiana 2nd as a reason to re-elect him, Villere quickly pointed out that not only did Cao receive nearly zero support from the national organization. But the Louisiana GOP worked hard to win more votes and win more parishes for McCain in 2008 than for Bush in 2004. This flies right in the face of the argument that it's the national organization that needs fundamental change. In fact, it seems like an argument for achieving fundamental change at the state and local parties. And while I see a lot about giving more resources to state parties and increasing accountability towards state chairmen from all of the candidates, this doesn't exactly require fundamental change at the RNC. In fact, the RNC could very well have fundamental change and we could still have many state and local parties in shambles. (See my previous post: We Don't Need a Chairman. We Need Leaders.)

Third, Morton Blackwell was in attendance and gave a strong endorsement of Blackwell. "Ken has gravitas. He will be taken seriously." said Morton. While I have a lot of respect for him, gravitas should not be a prerequisite to being RNC chairman. Sure, a candidate for high public office should have some gravitas. But I want my RNC chairman focused on winning elections! (See another previous post: Ability to Debate on Sunday Shows Should Not Be a Priority Prerequisite to be RNC Chairman.) Quite frankly, none of the six candidates convince me that they can find new ways to win and engage in an exchange of best practices.

(Aside: "Inspiring the base" and promoting "fundamental change" aren't mutually exclusive, and Ken Blackwell seems to have an understanding of this. But as for new ideas, John Yob said that he believes "markets work" and "if you stick with the status quo, you won't have any new ideas." This isn't exactly a convincing argument when it comes to separating yourself from all of the other non-incumbent candidates.)

I've already witnessed the lack of strategic creativity from all six candidates. But the lack of a dynamic vision of what our base is and what our base should look like is truly bothersome. So here's my mission to all who read and write here at The Next Right: after the election is done this weekend, don't take the lazy path and lobby the new national chairman for progress. Communicate with state party officials and push their buttons when it comes to winning at all levels: from Presidential electoral votes to city council races.

Ability to Debate on Sunday Shows Should Not Be a Priority Prerequisite to be RNC Chairman

Today, Republican media consultant Alex Castellanos endorsed Michael Steele for RNC chairman, and emphasized his ability to communicate:

"Steele is not just good at media appearances, he's great at them. He's a talented, passionate, and persuasive advocate of Republican principles. President-elect Obama will soon install Gov. Tim Kaine as chairman of the DNC — shouldn't the Republican party obtain a chairman who is ready on day one to square off against Kaine on CNN or Meet the Press?"

I respect Alex Castellanos, but ... No! No! No!

I've not only become agnostic on the RNC chairman's race; I've become apathetic. As I've pointed out in my immediate past post, the future of the party will be determined by leaders (or the lack thereof) in different states, in different campaign areas, both within and outside the status quo party structures.

Sure, Castellanos also mentions Steele's work as the Maryland state party chair and as GOPAC chair. But there's also the case against Steele that Rob Bluey wrote about a couple weeks ago at RedState that brings concern about his judgment when it comes to grassroots building.

Most importantly, there's a critical observation to make about Castellanos statement: should appearing and doing well on cable and news network shows be a primary prerequisite to being a qualified chairman? My perspective: it would be a nice bonus to have someone articulate to appear on MSM shows, but it should be nowhere near the top when it comes to priorities for the next RNC chairman:

  • First, cable news and Sunday morning shows are a dying medium, and we should focus on a more diverse array of traditional and new spaces to spread our message.
  • Second, why should the RNC waste it's time debating with Kaine? I want to see more debates between Ryan and Rangel on the budget and tax issues, between Sanford and Granholm on a bailout for state governments, etc.
  • Third, we should be developing spokespeople at the state and local level to speak with local media. We should engage more with the Myrtle Beach Sun News and the local NBC affiliate than be worried about the New York Times or CNN.
  • Fourth, I would want an RNC chairman that would be on the phone and on the computer all the time, (a) raising money and (b) communicating best and worst practices between state and local party officials, assisting in their efforts.
  • Fifth, we should stay away from the intellectual laziness that is bred from celebrity politics. I have nothing against Michael Steele personally, but part of his appeal is his celebrity status in comparison to the other candidates. The fame of our chairman won't guarantee success at the operational, communications, fundraising, or policy levels when it comes to a party. In fact, it guarantees nothing.

There are some who are talking about what the right prerequisites and roles are for the next RNC chairman at's new forum. But let's not get sucked into the appeal of liking a candidate just because he sounds nice. The American people already did that on November 4, 2008.

A Reminder to RNC Members: We Don't Need a Chairman. We Need Leaders.

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Leadership is action, not position.

Today, RedState made its endorsement in the RNC chairman's race. (I've stayed agnostic on the matter.)

"We believe strongly that should Ken Blackwell not have enough votes to be RNC Chairman on the first ballot, Mike Duncan deserves the votes on the second ballot."

The Next Right has been dedicated to promoting discussion on the future of the Republican Party. has done a great job in formulating a set of plans that the GOP can move forward with. The debates over messaging, policy, technology, campaign strategy, the role of the RNC, and the role of the chairman have been healthy. But the discussion over the chairman's race needs to be set in the proper context.

Some of the candidates have been discussing "decentralization plans" and the "importance of state and local parties." But the fact is that the 168 members of the RNC don't answer to the chairman they elect. On a broad scale, state party chairmen, committeemen, committeewomen, and the state executive/central committees they represent already have a sufficient amount of freedom to effectively execute their own strategy. So here's a message to the members of the Republican National Committee:

We don't need a chairman. We need operational leaders. Even if the next RNC chairman executes some or most of the plan, it doesn't necessarily translate into state parties benefitting from change at the top. Chip Saltsman might know the political mechanics in Tennessee. Michael Steele might know the political mechanics in Maryland. Ken Blackwell might know the political mechanics in Ohio. But state and local party officials should not depend on the limited knowledge of the next RNC chairman and his staff to assist in building a farm team. State and local parties need to recruit their own people to formulate a "Rebuild Plan" of their own, independent of the RNC, which takes into account the idiosyncrasies of their region.

We don't need a chairman. We need policy leaders. State and local governments are truly the laboratories of our democracy. State and local party officials not only need to recruit and elect candidates that can innovate within state capitols and city halls. It's necessary to strengthen the lines of communication with the state think tankosphere and issue-based grassroots organizations to assist in policy innovation, with full knowledge that vigorous debate and disagreement will exist. The more internal policy competition there is, the better policy there will be to present to voters.

We don't need a chairman. We need communications leaders. This is very simple: the more spokespeople within state and local parties, the better. Having different communications leaders for different issues and different segments of society is critical to any grassroots outreach. Unity in message is not mutually exclusive with the quantity of available messengers.

We don't need a chairman. We need fundraising leaders. The Obama campaign showed incredible creativity in their fundraising capacity and the ability to provide tools to those who wanted to raise money from the bottom up. State and local party leaders should not solely look to the national organization for fundraising assistance. Since people feel more connected to a government that's closer to them (state legislators, city councilmen, etc.), state and local parties should recruit human resources to come up with creative fundraising outlets for these organizations and candidates.

We don't need a chairman. We need technology leaders. This also goes without saying. With all of the above intact, state and local parties need folks willing to build the tools that can catalyze many facets of a party or campaign operation.

I'm not belittling the importance of the next RNC chairman; this person will hopefully provide the vision and leadership necessary for the national organization to succeed. But just as some of the decisions of the federal government don't necessarily directly affect state and local governments, the fate of state and local parties are not, and should not be, directly tied to the success (or failure) of the national organization. We need to be reminded that state and local parties have the ability to determine their own future.

This also means the members of the RNC need to be in constant communication with each other, sharing best (and worst) practices and keeping each other accountable for the goals that they set.

The future of the Republican Party is not the responsibility of one man and his staff. It depends on the cultivation of leaders at the state and local level, both inside and outside the party organizations. The position (or lack thereof) within the party does not make one a leader; it's whether or not you take the actions necessary that defines leadership. Just as RNC members should keep the national chairman accountable, so should we shift some of our attention to state and local organizations and keep their leaders accountable. The Republican Party will move in a positive direction when leaders in different states rise to the occasion.

Even though we've made fun of him for saying this, Barack Obama would say: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." So the question to the members of the RNC is this: what are you waiting for?

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