Stop Talking About "Technology"

The Rebuild the Party plan has often been characterized as a way to remake the party through technology. Though we've sometimes slipped in using that word to describe certain elements of the plan -- I generally feel uncomfortable with it being pigeonholed as a "technology" plan. I've generally struck "technology" from my vocabulary, taking instead about "new media" or simply, the "Internet" or when talking about a generational shift in fundraising or a 435 district strategy, wholesale party reform. Why? Because the word "technology" reinforces old siloed habits of thinking and implies that the solution is spending money on cool tech toys, rather than a quantum shift in approach.

If there is one thing the Republican Party is actually pretty good at right now, it's investing in "technology." From Voter Vault to the tools on, the Republican Party has invested millions of dollars over the years in building the best political data-mining, microtargeting, and GOTV applications in politics.

This is vitally important. And it must continue. But the Rebuild plan focuses for the most part on something wholly different than these vital campaign technologies (where the GOP has to date held an advantage): getting the warm bodies who will actually use the technology and volunteer and donate.

The difference between the Bush '04 campaign and the Obama '08 is simple: the Obama campaign did the same thing, but with ten times more people. Technology was the instrument, but message was the impetus behind this shift.

Getting people to participate by the millions is the biggest job of the next RNC Chairman. That will require a wholesale overhaul in our message and how we communicate. First, the leadership and the grassroots will have to collaborate to shape the message. However one felt about the immigration debate, imposing change from the top as an elite project hatched at the White House was never going to fly politically. Ditto for spending, Medicare Part D, and to a lesser extent, education. The days of a leader deciding a message in a vacuum without grassroots input are over. There has got to be some buy-in from the grassroots -- or else you'll have a hollowed-out party with no boots on the ground. This is a pragmatic matter of survival as much as it is one of principle.

It also means changing our style of communication in a new era. Leaders have to be accessible, open, aggressive, and willing to throw the playbook out the window when necessary. Technology has made it easier to filter bottom-up input so that the good ideas rise to the top, so there is no excuse for at least some personal engagement with new media. Unless you're the guy with the nuclear launch codes, you're not too important to Twitter or blog at least every now and again.

Some of these reforms are substantive (changing the message) and others are meta (making people feel invested by applying a personal touch). And none of them are really dependent on technology -- I consider the Internet, blogs, Twitter, and YouTube to be media not technology per se. Here are a couple of other paradigms to think about in evaluating this fundamental shift in politics:


Push vs. Pull

By far the biggest mindset-change the RNC Chairman must -- and I reiterate, must -- wrap his arms around is that media is moving away from "push" to "pull." An inordinate amount of time at the committee -- and by political conultants everywhere -- is spent on shaping, testing, and coordinating messages that are pushed out to voters. As in, how many pieces of mail can we push out there? How many phone calls or volunteer door knocks can we push out there? And ultimately, how much media can we buy -- which is the push equivalent of the magic sin button. The messages themselves don't always have to be very interesting, as long as they're proven and poll-tested.

All of these methods are the political equivalent of spam. As in, an unsolicited contact to a voter who wasn't asking for it, or in another word, advertising. Spam is perhaps a harsh way of putting it, because when repeated massively these touches are effective, and voters have come to expect a heavy volume of unsolicited contact around election time (in contrast to spam e-mails, where the expectation is that just one is a nuisance).

However, the effectiveness of Push is declining. With a fragmented media landscape and voters being exposed to literally thousands of marketing messages every single day, only extraordinarily relevant narratives get through. Obama's "hope." Palin's personal appeal that the base understood on day one.

The Republican Party's answer to this problem has been a very heavy dose of microtargeting aided by technology. This is very important -- campaign money isn't limitless, and the vast majority of it will be spent in push media even in an efficient Internet-driven marketplace. It's worthwhile getting as much bang for your buck as possible by targeting your messages to the people most likely to act on them.

But in terms of the paradigm shift that needs to occur in thought processes if not in budgeting, microtargeting and database technology is the wrong frame of reference.

Because you can't spam people on the Internet -- not effectively anyway -- you have to get people to come to you. This is what people inside Republican campaigns fundamentally failed to grasp at the very moments when Dean and Obama were happening. The conventional wisdom was that these campaigns were good at "technology" that they "used" to reach more voters -- a very Push way of thinking.

What real net-driven campaigns are actually about is creating a nucleus of excitement around an extraordinary or unique or even clever idea that can stand on its own with zero advertising. And then they get their activists to self-identify by the millions and engage at ever higher levels. Those millions of self-identified activists that are pulled in are almost always more valuable than the tens of millions of contacts that a traditional organization pushes out -- even with the most sophisticated targeting. Nor is this an insight unique to campaigns. It's the secret behind the success of companies like Apple. It's not that these organizations don't advertise and market themselves brilliantly. It's that the advertising is gravy because the core product is so compelling.

The most important pieces of Obama's campaign were built around this Pull model -- everything from a different type of brand identity, to a very simple, clean and compelling message that was almost apolitical.

The next RNC Chairman must be smart and nimble enough to create a series of Pull moments that generate millions of signups around specific issues. Drill Now created such a moment for the Right last year, and a GOP with the backbone to stand in opposition things like an $800 billion expansion of government will have no trouble revitalizing its grassroots.

Activity vs. Control

People who run political organizations must face a simple philosophical choice: do they want more activity or more control over what happens on their behalf?

To date, most political professionals would say more control. With the rise of the Internet expanding the amount of work that can realistically be done by the grassroots, that is increasingly becoming the wrong bet.

Look at There was very little filtering and very little control over what was said and done on that network. This sometimes led to mini-controversies over particularly stupid postings on the site -- controversies that nonetheless never seriously damaged the campaign. In return for a loosening of control and acceptance of a certain level of risk, came an exponential increase in the amount of work that the grassroots could do on behalf of the campaign.

That the Obama campaign was very tightly message discliplined was the icing on the cake. What enabled this freedom to coexist with a certain modicum of control is that the candidate ran on a very simple message that even the most casual supporter wanted to repeat -- which actually amplified a sense of message discipline in a decentralized manner. There was very little danger of a supporter going off message because the message was very easily understood.

Contrast this to many Republican officeholders and campaigns. Either a politician decides to show "leadership" by taking a position at odds with his base without bothering to explain it. Or they explain positions that are in agreement with the base in uninspiring, convoluted terms. Or, more frequently, they don't walk the walk, spouting populist, poll-tested rhetoric one minute and voting for TARP the next -- in addition to giving off the sense in all the intangible ways that they're a creature of official Washington first. This is all a very longhanded way of saying such figures are inauthentic.

Guys like McCain and Biden have done a great job of seeming authentic about being Washington insiders, but both have faced disaster getting elected President in their own right. Still, it's better to be honest and authentic about a flawed political persona than to straddle the fence, pleasing nobody. This authenticity is the only way to align your message with a passionate audience that's waiting for it.

The bottom line is that no campaign manager can expect absolute control over what is said and done on behalf of his candidate. The best hope of imposing order on chaos is to align your message with what the grassroots are saying. If your campaign narrative is compelling, and is one that people instinctively get without rote repetition, you won't have to be top-down, and can get all the benefits of a bottom-up campaign with built-in message discipline. See "Hope" and "Change."

Summing Up

What I've discussed here is an attitude change that dictates certain uses of technology among other things. This attitude change must precede the "technology."

The RNC can acquire the best social networking technology on the market, but if it's used to push the same Beltway-centric talking points, it will lie fallow. The technology will be great, but no one will use it.

Over the next four years, the RNC must learn to speak in the voice of grassroots activism and not of Washington. This will hopefully become easier now without White House control. Communications to the press should be de-emphasized in favor of strategic communication to the masses of activists and voters that the web makes possible. This communication must be two-way. The RNC and the party more broadly needs to listen to what its various constituencies are telling them, and use the best elements as the cornerstone of its message to the country.

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This is all very interesting, but

how to we apply it in the here and now when rather important battles are about to be fought

Particularly when this battle is being fought in the home turf of one of most hidebound, insider oriented local Republican parties in the nation?

At the end of the day you can have issues, you can have strategy, but you'd better have a candidate that connects with the grassroots 

There is only one way to communicate with the grassroots...

...and that is to become an authentic grassroots party again. 

"...the RNC must learn to speak in the voice of grassroots activism and not of Washington...The RNC and the party more broadly needs to listen to what its various constituencies are telling them, and use the best elements as the cornerstone of its message to the country. "

 We have, as a political party, a great untapped political resource, our members. Instead of simply building an interface with the grassroots, i.e., Rebuild the Party, the party must develop an actual online party structure at the local, state and national levels. You can't fake grassroot communicating like "Organizing for America" is planning to do, or network with it like Rebuild the Party is proposing. There is only one authentic way to listen to the party's grassroots: Give it a voice, allow it to speak and to be accurately be heard within the party structure itself.

Unless I am mistaken, Organizing for America is just your ordinary propaganda sheet. I didn't see any place there that broke down the issues, gave the President's view on the issue, and allowed registered members an opportunity to blog the issue (HTML included) and blog the President's viewpoints on the issue. In fact, I didn't see any place where they even allowed their own membership to blog at all on their new OFA website.

Now come on, we can do better than that. We have to do better than that or the grassroots won't participate in the numbers that will make a difference.

Now what do you think about that, Hillary?


ex animo


You are making progress

At least this post admits there are issues.  The next step is to take positions on them.  This post seems to say that Republican candidates should avoid taking positions until they have been vetted with the grassroots using internet technology.  This reminds me of a supposed scene in the French Revolution in which someone proclaims: "I have to find out where the people are going so I can lead them."

The dilemma is that the Reagan coalition came apart.  Economic conservatives, business conservatives, and cultural conservatives have figured out that they have different positions on issues (e.g. immigration: business is for, cultural conservatives against). 

The Democratic coalition will come apart too.  It was created by Bush, what you call BDS.  The sooner Republicans stop acting like Bush (hint: they haven't yet -- holding up the stimulus to get more tax cuts for the rich) the sooner truly conservative Democrats will switch back.

The old "tax cuts for the rich" saw

The GOP got a nasty bite in 2006 and 2008, but this wasn't the dog that bit us; cause that dog don't hunt.

Perhaps someone could explain why adding more burdens to successful businesses so as to subsidize failed businesses is supposed to produce "economic recovery" ? 

Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2004

Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2004

Budget Office Says Biggest Tax Cuts Goes to Riches 1%

President Bush's three tax-cut laws will reduce this year's income taxes for the richest 1% of taxpayers by an average of $78,460, more than 70 times the average benefit for the middle 20% of taxpayers, congressional analysts found.


Hmm, and what happened in November of that year?

We lost in '06 and '08 due to Iraq.  The "tax cut for the rich" issue didn;t move a scintilla of votes.

OTOH, the "tax increase for the rich" platform decimated the Democrats in 1994.


 Iraq was one issue and the

 Iraq was one issue and the economy also is an issue. There are a lot of issues that Bush did not take care of. All of the issues started to pile up, and what we have seen is a stagnant republican party with the worst president in our lifetimes. 

Look at the electoral map. You lost Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, etc. for good reason. Our jobs are going overseas. It is what they say, it is "the economy stupid." And the republicans have provided no answer.

Well, I don't know what

Well, I don't know what failed business you are talking about.

Are you talking about the banks? Seems like all the analysts and economists on CNBC all differ on that. We have a global financial crisis and everyone seems to agree that something has to be done to stop the uncontrollable downward spiral, as we are close to a depression. So we want to prevent the worst from happening. Maybe Bank of America, Citibank, should fail. I don't know. And the experts are arguing this very point. And we have CEO's who just take the our money and create lavish offices and add perks.

If you are talking of the auto industry, then what do you do with 1 or 2 million people in the midwest if we just let them go under? I guess we can let the auto industry be controlled by the Japanese, the Koreans, and the Chinese. In case of a world war, who should we rely on?

If you are saying that markets know better, I have no argument on that. And if you are talking successful businesses, I am not sure which ones you are talking about and do they produce jobs in this country or do they build the factories overseas. And what do you do with millions of people out of work, and especially in the time of a recession, cities and states going broke.

The problem with trickle down is that the money and jobs did not trickle down. Our jobs are still going overseas even with the 8 years of tax cuts. So we have a problem with globalization. We cannot compete with third world labor. I view all industries are vulnerable if they are able to move. We have not done the research and development and planning to provide a means to replace old industry.

So therefore, I propose as I have said many times. You need infrastructural spending, energy independence, mandatory vocational training, embryonic stem cell research, science, innovation, and all the research and development possible. We have a backlog of 700,000 patents. I believe there should be alliances with government and business. All this takes time. Like 10 to 20 years. We should have started years ago. But we are where we are. Recognize the problems and deal with them. Get away from failed ideologies and laissez-faire. It will take more in deficit spending, there is no other choice. If you recognize free markets, then deal with free markets. But let us not have a president again that says "free trade is good" as factories close.


The paradox of success for the Right


First, until republicans come to grips with the fact that the last 8 years of the Bush administration was a disaster by any measure there will be no reprieve for republicans. To believe otherwise is so self destructive that the wilderness will look like a nice place. Second, for the neo-cons to remove their veils and reveal their true colors is refreshing. They don’t really like or believe in democracy unless they are the ones in charge of the democracy. Wanting the president and democrats to fail because they are out of power says volumes about their goals and objectives to subjugate our democracy and way of life by replacing it with their perverted belief system of “real Americans.” The great fear of the right is that Obama could be successful and that would banish the neo-cons from power for decades. This is why they would rather have America fail then succeed. 


You wote that whole post

You wote that whole post without mentioning the Ron Paul movement.  Awesome.

An interesting article by Orac at Scienceblogs...


to consider:

President Obama and technology



old joke

Reminds me of an old joke:

How can you tell the difference between a fiscal conservative and a social conservative?

The social conservative is the one working the phone bank.  The fiscal conservative is the one complaining that the social conservative isn't working hard enough.

In other words, we've all got to chip in and do our part, technology or not.

When you think about it, if

When you think about it, if you add up these numbers and taking your numbers, there was over 600 million dollars spent on advertising in about 17 states.  we must not neglect those offline.  there will be a time, 2012 or 2016 that television advertising will fade. online advertising degree

Spot On Post On the "Dead Zone" of MY GOP

Patrick is clearly spot on the real issues of the GOP serious "technology" GAP.  It is not the technology, but the vision upon which the "technology" is built and applied.  We have tools, we have great "technology".  What we lack is any clear vision of what the technology was supposed to do, what end result it was supposed to achieve.  That is why this not a debate on "technology".

Too much of the technology development of the GOP was done in the atmosphere of "keep up".  No visionaries existed within the leadership to anticipate the power and relevance of New Media in the successful prosecution of political campaigns.  Accordingly, we had our butts whipped by the Democrats who got a glimpse of the promise and latched onto it and accepted the potentially "disruptive" impact it might have on the Party, what choice did they have.  Things could not get much worse for them post 2000.

That is the critical element for us in "fixing this".  We need to return the party to a true "grassroots" party so that these "jewels " of insight and knowledge do not get filtered out as they pass up the chain to the "leadership".

That is why I support Saul Anuzis for Chair of the RNC.  He understands New Media better than any other candidate and he represents the best chance for us to bring the "disruptive" change we need in the GOP to move us towards understanding the weaknesses in our tactics and strategy.  Our core principles are not the issue, our execution and abdication of responsibility at the grassroots level are.  The grassroots walked away from our responsiility to drive and monitor the agenda and execution of the plan for victory.  We left thi in the hands of a few people who lacked the vision and did not have adequate feedback loops.

I, for one, resolve not to let this happen again.  That is why I am trying to make my impact relevant.  I will no longer sit by and scream at my TV. I will be involved, either as part of a re-invigorated grassroots who understands, or as a thorn, poking my leadership from the local level on up on what we need to do and what we are doing wrong so they do not fall into the trap of believing their own "press".

If you have trried to gain acccess to MY GOP you will find that it requires them to approve you.  In three attempts since January to gain an account there, no one has responded to me.  Elvis left the building and went over the be the admin for MY GOP, it is the new "Dead Zone".  Nothing is happening there at present, nothing..  The heavy barrier to participation, will prevent the site from ever serving any purpose.

The situation as dar as local party understanding of New Media is highly varied.  In my county the website is equally a dead zone, at my  State level (Florida) it is somewhat improved but you will find no ability to communicate with our leadership (except Sharon Day) as their understanding of Web 2.0 has some tie to spiders.  Across the states you need to look at your local party's application of empowering technologies to see if they even have a grasp of what that means.

Saul Anuzis

I like Mr. Anuzis generally, I appreciate how he is plugged in to the Web 2.0 social networking stuff, and I like the fact that he comes from an industrial Midwestern state like Michigan which is going to be a perpetual battleground for Republicans.  My only concern, though, is that he is the head of the Republican Party in a state that has been completely ruined by liberals, and yet the opposition party under his leadership didn't appear to be capable of capitalizing on that failure in any meaningful way.  I would expect that the governing party of any state that is in the middle of recession, while all the others are enjoying prosperity, would be subject to the wrath of the voters at the polls.  But I'm not a Michigander so I don't know all the intimate details.  Perhaps someone here can help to elucidate the matter further.

What needs to improve

What needs to improve is not the technology - the Left is not any further ahead of us in that arena, trust me.

Communication is what needs to improve.

We've got a number of groups and movements using the best tech out there, but they still are not communicating with one another and are duplicating efforts. This is occuring even though people are shared between the groups.

Having dozens of places on the web to keep track of is a nightmare. It may be easier with RSS feeds, but how many different groups are there on just Ning now that are tripping over one another?

We have got to get this straightened out now before it fragments further.

 Reminds me of an old

 Reminds me of an old joke:


How can you tell the difference between a fiscal conservative and a social conservative?

The social conservative is the one working the phone bank.  The fiscal conservative is the one complaining that the social conservative isn't working hard enough.

In other words, we've all got to chip in and do our part, technology or not.

Regards,Jogos de Meninas and Jogos de Pokemon