Bad Mailing Lists?

John Ensign said a lot yesterday in a very small number of words:

The Senate Republicans' top fundraiser Thursday said he is telling colleagues this is a bad year for members of his party to be up for election.

"I'm telling them if you have an 'R' in front of your name, you better run scared," said Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). [...]

Mr. Ensign dismissed reports that contributions to the Republicans by disgruntled small donors are down this year. He maintained the party's contributor base is intact. The Republican Party long has boasted that it is the party of small donors while the Democratic Party has had to rely far more on wealthy contributors to finance election campaigns.

He said the Republican Party never suffered a loss in small donors, only a shrinkage in the net amount of money raised - a decline that he said was not the result of small donors being disgusted with excessive Republican spending in Congress but of the party having been mailing "bad" lists that had driven up fundraising costs. That problem has been eliminated, he said.

Well I for one am resting a lot easier now.

Ensign's strange remarks (quoted in the Washington Times above) speak volumes about what's wrong with the right. Ironically, it is not that we are behind technologically but rather that we've become obsessed with it.

That may seem a little off-kilter so let me explain.

In the world of conservative non-profits and Republican campaigns the wrong type of thinking has caught hold, a type of thought that says with enough voter demographic databases and precisely targeted email lists, we can do anything. This school of thought has a close relative which argues that if we just build blogs, create videos, and sync our Twitter and Facebook accounts enough, we'll win the public back to our side.

Unfortunately, politics doesn't work that way. Keeping up with the technological Joneses is actually the bare minimum of what the right should be doing. It takes little strategic vision to insist upon high-technology web sites, well-produced video, or precise mailing lists. All of these things are good things. What we desperately need more of is a return to the public square on the part of the right.

Instead of continually trying to refine Reagan-era political strategy, we ought instead to be creating post-Reagan conservatism, one that rejects the small-bore politics of photo-ops, earmarks (pro and con), and cowering before the press in favor of a 21st century conservatism that realizes politics is done less in the halls of Congress and more in the television and computer screens of the home. A conservatism that isn't silent on technology, the environment, and the global economy.

And how about a conservatism that actually tries to explain itself in language that makes sense to the average person?

That last point is especially critical. Most people don't really care at all about policy. Nor should they. What they do want is to hear today's issues addressed in a reasonable manner by someone who loves the country and its people. With that in place, victory follows. Even with a "bad" mailing list.

Matthew Sheffield is the creator of NewsBusters and executive producer of the fake news show "NewsBusted."

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So its not all the online and offline campaigns I've seen and heard about. Its a bad mailing list.



Right facts, right analysis...I think.

Allow me to paraphrase: While it is perfectly true, there is, "...the wrong type of thinking..." going on over at the RNC,  it is true that, "...with enough voter demographic databases and precisely targeted email lists, we can do anything".  It is also true, "...If we just build blogs, create videos, and sync our Twitter and Facebook accounts enough, we'll win the public back to our side.

The problem here is not the tool but how it is being used. As long as the party leadership uses this wonderful new communicative tool simply as a bigger megaphone to shout down yet more efficiently to the people what they are suppose to think and do, their net-efforts will be largely ineffective. However, if some new enlightened leaders do manage to take over the reins of the party and realize that instead of shouting down at the people, this wonderful new communicative tool can be used to actually listen to the people and move their issues upward to the leadership, things will change, and change quickly.

If this is your point, I heartedly concur. As I have said, the Internet is a wonderful two-way, one-on-one mass communication technology. But in order to be effective, it has to be used to its fullest potential. Reforming the Republican Party to be an integrated, online cybernetic party would be a good first step. But without new leaders and a motivation to change, it's not going to happen. In politics, communication is power, and power is never given, it is always taken.

ex animo


I think it's important we be

I think it's important we be aggressive about making smarter use of technology, but as I've said before, the most brilliant, expensive and sophisticated web operation won't get you anywhere without a candidate and message that resonates.

No doubt both of us will soon be greeted by angry comments, but I agree that we need to start thinking about the post-Reagan era.  Reagan's principles were timeless, but his message was suited to his times. 

As great a job as the RNC/BC04 did four years ago, I think it also served to convince many Republicans that we had an unbeatable formula; that we could just sit back while the mechanism did its work, and we'd win every election.  As a matter of fact, I did 72-hour in the 2005 Virginia governor's race.  On election day, a nervous volunteer asked one of the RNC field reps if Kilgore was going to win.  The rep replied, "Of course!  The Democrats don't have anything like this program."  Kilgore was defeated by Democrat Tim Kaine. 

You're right: we still can't get out of this mentality.  One of the most disastrous years for Republicans in recent memory will no doubt be the fault of bad mailing lists or a crashed server.  No chance there could be anything wrong with the message.

I think you have your priorities wrong, Tom.

If we are, indeed, smarter in our use of technology, the peoples' message will resonate because it will have come from the people, not top, down from the leadership. Once the message resonates, a "leader" will soon pick it up and run with it. I think you have your priorities is wrong.

ex animo


So you put technology before message?

His point was that if the message doesn't work, the tech doesn't matter.

Perhaps you are right, Soren.

But I was trying to point out, this new, communicative technology, if used correctly, is capable of allowing the people to generate their own message. This new communicative technology, if used correctly, is capable of generating the "right" message from the crowds, and this new, communicative technology, if used correctly, is capable of resonating the right message through the electorate.  Once the people, through the effective use of the Internet, support a message, getting a leader to carry it forward will be the easy part.

If the message doesn't work, the tech doesn't matter. If you use the tech to generate the right message, this particular problem is solved. The message will always be the right message, is what I was essentially saying.

I apologize if my post wasn't sufficiently clear to you on this point.

It's a fasinating subject, by the way.  Have you read James Surowiecki's book, The Wisdon of the Crowds on the subject?

ex animo



I agree. Todays GOP seems to be trying to ignore his principles, and run on his message and policies.

Tax cuts don't resonate the way they used to. We're a victim of our success to some extent.

If Ensign is an example of Republican leadership

no wonder our party is leaderless.  Purely anecdotal but until 2 years ago I was a regular small donor.  I'm not giving another dime for now and believe me, I have let them know and why.  These idiots have their heads buried where the sun don't shine.  John Ensign, don't call your office - get out of office.  You're now part of the problem, not the solution.

A pox on these people.


I've seen plenty of folks like you put up similar evidence. And when there were lines to make those complaints to the national party back in 05 for a while they took the phone off the hook


I don't buy it

I don't think it's a matter

I don't think it's a matter of priorities so much as no one magic bullet solving our problems.  I'm a big believer in technology and I think the GOP is way behind in terms of embracing technology in a meaningful way, and by that I don't mean necessarily using every new widget that comes along, but in a way that engenders interconnectivity and bottom-up communication, as you say. 

However, I don't agree that if we just use technology the right way, that our current message, unadjusted, will provide us an unfettered path to electoral victory.  No technology in the world will insulate Republicans from the damage done by unapologetic Republican spendthrifts on the Appropriations Committee.  I can also tell you from real, national-level experience that creative use of social media will not make an uninspiring candidate inspiring.

I guess I fall right in the middle of the two camps, one being that we don't need to embrace Web 2.0, and we can just keep relying on direct mail and talk radio into the next century, and the other that pushing buttons in the right way will solve all that ails us.  I think we need to do both, and I don't prioritize one over the other.  I don't think either will be fully effective on its own.  There are no silver bullets in politics.

Just a quick post-script: statements like "I think you have your priorities wrong, Tom," are a good way to help posts devolve into flame wars that do nothing to advance the discussion, and certainly no one wants to read.  Responding to my points in an agreeable or disagreeable fashion seems perfectly appropriate, but in my experience "you" statements are always a good way to produce a 23-comment chain of tit-for-tat that has nothing to do with anything and wastes everyone's time, not least of all the posters'.  And I don't want to waste your time.

Wrong, again, Tom.

I would have crouched it differently,  but it seems your sensibilities would have been bruised even further.

Tom, you must realize by now -- what with all your national-level experience and all -- the party leadership, if left to their own devises, will never, ever use technology in a way that will,"... engender inter-connectivity and bottom-up communication"... As our party is structured presently, winning the next election is the goal, all else is meaningless. The same can be said about our liberal, democratic friends' party, I might add. It's like the people are children caught in the middle between two parents in a nasty divorce case.

But I digress. Let's go back to your priorities.  "I can also tell you from real, national-level experience that creative use of social media will not make an uninspiring candidate inspiring." I think the Ron Paul phenomenon can be successfully used to debunk this statement.

"However, I don't agree that if we just use technology the right way, that our current message, unadjusted, will provide us an unfettered path to electoral victory." But no one ever suggested the message resonating up from the people, should not be "unadjusted". The problem goes much deeper than simple adjustments, Tom. It goes to the question of power.

Are we going to have a party that is restructured to derive its "true" power from its membership or are we going to continue to allow our party to be controlled by the political elite, the money interests who have stolen it?

ex animo


The Silver Bullet...

The Silver Bullet is for Republicans to start voting in accordance with Republican values.  I'm not even talking about narrowing it down to conservative values.  Small government, free market solutions, protect individual liberty, promote individual responsible.

I'm in the same boat that Peg C. is in, I've been a reliable donor ($100+ a year) for several years.  They've gotten nothing from me this year, yet.

Right on Message

It seems small contributors are right on message, message to party leadership that is.  The message is simply "Shape up, or we'll stop giving". 

Matthew Sheffield? THAT guy???


Sorry to go off topic but…


Matthew Sheffield is the creator of NewsBusters and executive producer of the fake news show "NewsBusted."


“NewsBusted”?  You’re passing that off as comedy!?


Worst… Show… Ever!


What I saw in “NewsBusted” was nothing but right-wing talking points with a laugh track.  And btw… A laugh track!?  Seriously!?!


Is making fun of Michael Moore’s obesity “The Next Right”?


Good luck with that.

"NewsBusted" may suck

But beats anything similar on the left, *especially* Media Matters, IMO. Yes, they'd be smarter to fire the girl who has no comedy timing & hire a professional conservative comic like Nick Dipaulo, who can stand up to a live audience and make them laugh, but Matthew knows that, and eventually he'll probably be forced to do it.

  Hah!  There’s a


Hah!  There’s a ringing endorsement for you Matthew.


You want to know what Matthew’s problem is?  You want to know what “NewsBusted” problem is???


NewsBusted’s problem is that it is NOT comedy.  It’s a political message masked in an attempt at comedy.  And that’s just not funny.

Take The Daily Show, for which I must assume that NewsBusted gets its inspiration, for example.  Sure Jon Stewart leans Left, sure the comedy there is mostly aimed at newsmakers from the Right, but the difference is, they don’t use ideological content as the object for their comedy.  You cannot use an agenda as basis for content.  It never works.  It’s never funny.

And I doubt that somebody like Matthew who is driven by an ideological agenda will be able to grasp that.


There is a lot to make fun of from the LeftA LOT.  But when you try to push an agenda through that content, it is never funny.  It can never be masked.


And if MediaMatters produced a similar show to Matthew’s, I’m sure it would suck too.



They can improve, IMO

Matthew already knows my suggestions. I think the show needs to evolve, but I think it can, if they allow in a more libertarian agenda, which might be slowly happening. The Daily Show also pushes an agenda just about as much as Fox News or MSNBC or CNN, which all have/had variously lame comedy shows. Comedy Central is definitely pro big government in many areas, IMO, like the rest of the networks.

Comedy is not easy, or cheap, but conservative types can certainly do comedy -- Drew Carey of the more-libertarian is living proof, and his shows there happen to rock, but maybe that's my agenda showing. Not all he does there is meant to be funny, anyway. and other conservative comics who can do stand up live are around. They're not cheap if they're good like Nick or Drew, but I could easily imagine a right wing version of Colbert (who mocks O'Reilly constantly) mocking Keith Olbermann or Katie Couric types with the exact same kind of schtick. I doubt it would be Jodie Miller of Newsbusted, but I can easily imagine it.

You must be a liberal

No one who is a centrist, conservative, or libertarian would say that about Stewart's humor. His show is at its core a liberal message. He didn't start out that way but once he started really turning up the Bush-bashing, he realized that it helped his ratings among the Bush-haters.

The agenda is completely implicit in his comedy. Almost every "Daily Show" political joke is predicated on one of the following assumptions:

  1. Conservatives are ignorant religious rubes
  2. Non-stupid conservatives are thoroughly evil
  3. Iraq = blood for oil
  4. Bush lied, people died
  5. Patriot act will kill us all
  6. All conservatives are corrupt

But since you're not a center-right person, it's natural you wouldn't notice any of this. Almost all political humor is naturally agenda-based. Liberals are less sensitive to left-wing agendas and conservatives are less sensitive to right-wing agendas.

JMR: stay tuned for some further developments on that front.

Obviously, you're not a regular viewer.


No one who is a centrist, conservative, or libertarian would say that about Stewart's humor. His show is at its core a liberal message.


Right, so the Rob Riggle spot hammering Code Pink is… what, exactly?  What core liberal message did that send?


The guy who sponsors Newsbusters calling me liberal doesn’t really hurt my feelings.

The guy who produces Newsbusted.

Some people are complaining that anti-American actor Danny Glover was chosen to play the president in an upcoming film.  What’s the big deal?  America may elect a first lady (Michelle Obama) who’s anti-American for real.  /laughtrack


Hardy har har.  Knee slapper.


This is the Next Right???

That DS segment is so

That DS segment is so memorable because it's so rare. You'd know that if you were center-right.