Michelle Malkin: "Conservatives Aren't Behind Online" -- Yeah. Right.

I have a brief break at the airport on my way back from RightOnline, a conservative summit focusing on technology and new media for the Right, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the Sam Adams Alliance, and the Leadership Institute. It was a solid conference, featuring some excellent keynotes by Barry Goldwater, Jr., Michael Steele, and Robert Novak.  Also featured, and perhaps even most prominently, was commentator Michelle Malkin.

As a quick aside, it was a very good conference.  There were a lot of excellent discussions – including a lot of throught-provoking analysis by The Next Right co-founder Soren Dayton – and generally speaking, I felt that the conference offered a lot of useful information for people right of center who are trying to get involved in the new media world.

At most of the conference, the discussion focused on how the Right desperately needs to catch up with the Left at many levels – grassroots organization, appeal to young voters, and most importantly (at least in terms of the focus conference), technology and new media.  After a great deal of discussion on the first day of the conference as to how the Right can catch up technologically, Michelle Malkin, one of the keynote speakers on day two, threw a huge curveball.  I didn't write down the exact words that she said, but this is more or less her statement:

"Conservatives aren't actually behind technologically, we're just doing it differently."

A Turning Point for the Right

AUSTIN, Tex. – I arrived in the Lone Star State tonight with big hopes for the next two days. I’ll be attending Americans for Prosperity’s Right Online conference with several hundred conservative activists from across America and here in Texas.

This conference is significant for many reasons, but the most important is the fact that conservatives are finally getting together to talk face-to-face about the challenges and opportunities on the Internet. Many meetings have taken place in the past -- including one I hosted at Heritage last year -- but this one is special because it’s happening at the same time and in the same city as Netroots Nation.

Over the next two days, attendees will interact in workshops on everything from online fundraising and social networking to reputation management and web video. Blogging will be a key component. My colleague Bill Beach, director of Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis, will teach a class on Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting to nearly 20 professional and citizen journalists.

Some of the online right’s most noteworthy people are here. That’s a stark contrast to other technology/politics conferences I’ve attended the past couple years. In fact, too often it’s quite lonely. I recall a post from Matt Lewis of Townhall at the 2007 Politics Online conference in Washington:

While there may be some inherent reasons for liberal domination in the blogosphere, some of the problems may actually be our own fault. ...

Granted, it is very possible that there are other conservatives here that I haven't seen (or don't know). But it is also clear that a vast majority of the folks attending are liberals. Sometimes these things perpetuate themselves. Conservatives don't want to attend because most of the folks here are liberals. Of course, this thinking makes the problem worse...

The purpose of this conference is to learn from experts about how to use the internet more effectively. Surely, this is something that conservatives and Republicans can benefit from.

It's a shame more of us aren't here...

Gradually, that problem has disappeared, but there’s no question conservatives still remain in the minority. Last month’s Personal Democracy Forum in New York was one of the best showings among the online right, yet liberals still dominated. Now we have a gathering of our own.

There’s another reason I’m excited about Right Online. More than two years ago I co-founded with Tim Chapman (now a communications adviser to Sen. Jim DeMint) the Conservative Bloggers’ Briefing. What started as a strategy session with a handful of bloggers quickly evolved into a weekly meeting of new-media strategists and online communicators. I often tell people that the most important thing about the briefing is not what happens at the meeting but the networking that takes place before and after.

That’s why I believe Right Online has so much potential. Bloggers and online activists on the left have formed strong bonds to pursue their goals. People on the right don’t have the same kind of off-line relationships to help achieve online victories. So while I know people will come away better educated in the ways of online fundraising and making videos, I also hope they leave Austin with many new friends and allies -- partners who share the values of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom a strong national defense.

RightOnline Summit

Promoted - this can be an important conference for the Right to begin organizing around ideas and people. - Jon Henke

For some reason, at Americans for Prosperity we seem to confronting the left head on quite a bit lately. You may have read about our little adventure last week, when we buzzed Al Gore’s mansion in a hot air balloon (to expose the high cost of global warming alarmism…)

Well, as many of you know, the YearlyKos / Netroots Nation Convention will be taking place in Austin, Texas from July 17th – 20th, and again, all of us at Americans for Prosperity weren’t content to just sit by and let them have all the fun! While the left convenes for their annual meeting of the tin foil hat wearers, I invite all of you to take part in a conservative gathering that will be going on just across town. Americans for Prosperity is hosting the RightOnline Summit on July 18th and 19th at the Renaissance Austin Hotel.
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