Pat Ruffini was kind enough to reply to my post from yesterday where I asked how his plans to counter the left’s online advantage fit in to reform of the Republican party.
My point – either not well made or Pat chose not to respond specifically – is one of timing. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does creating this online juggernaut occur in a vacuum? Is it dependent on what the Republican party does to reform itself? Are the two goals mutually exclusive or is their some kind of symbiosis involved where the rightroots’ efforts lead to reform of the party or vice versa?
Pat referred to my “strawman” argument as one of tactics. Au contraire, mon ami. First, if by “strawman” Pat means I was deliberately misrepresenting his position, that was not my intent. If he took it that way, I’m sorry. I am 100% behind Pat’s efforts and, as an aside, believe him to be the best individual to get this idea off the ground and in motion.
Having said that, I believe there to be a disconnect in Pat’s reasoning that would be fatal to his efforts. Quoting from his response:
I would break down the three things the GOP needs to do as follows:
- Rebuild our infrastructure. There is no question that the left has us beat online and in the new forms of alternative media. We need a strategy for addressing that. This is a main focus of Rebuild the Party but not the only one.
- Find our message. In the absence of a new Reagan or better infrastructure, we need to find a compelling message that resonates. We need to be more centrist / more conservative. We need to focus more on social issues / fiscal issues. Etc. etc. We hear a lot of this lately. Henke has a framing for this that I like: the unifying narrative.
- Find new leaders. Only when people have a leader they can rally behind will the movement be activated. This was certainly true of Obama.
The right answer is that we need all of the above. None of these can happen without the other. Perhaps the largest failings of the Bush years can be attributed to the fact that we had a new leader without an ideological revival at the same time.
Rick is right that new technology will be for naught if we keep spending like drunken sailors. Tactics cannot overcome structural deficits or crappy, uninspiring messaging. Good marketing cannot dress up a bad product.
“Rebuilding infrastructure” was not my impression of what The Next Right and Rebuild the party.com was all about. I thought Pat was in the business of creating a whole new ball of wax – online activism, fundraising, candidate recruitment – everything the left is now doing online as well as transplanting some of the Obama model to the right. Certainly we can piggyback some of that on an existing organizational template through the RNC or some other party department but the bulk of what must be done has to be accomplished if not in opposition to the party (do they really want 5 million people trying to tell them what to do?) then certainly independent of it.
As for the “message” or Henke’s “narrative,” that indeed, refers to tactical matters that I agree is vitally important but not relevant to my critique. And whether or not finding a “Reagan” is even possible given the nature of politics and the fact that The Gipper was a World-Historical figure who by definition comes along once in a generation or two would be an iffy proposition at best.
So is wondering about whether the chicken or the egg comes first in this reform process a question of “tactics” or is it a fundamental question regarding the viability of Pat’s ideas? By reforming the party, I think we are both talking about not only issues but structural changes as well (Pat addresses this at RTP.com by calling for RNC reform). I am not sure that the way the national party’s thinking is organized at the moment, Pat’s online ideas fit entirely in the party’s plans for the future. I’m sure they’re grateful for the efforts and would give their right arms for the kind of organization Pat is talking about but are they going to be a help or a hindrance?
So my question from yesterday about why conservatives should exert the energy to become more active before the party takes the necessary steps to reform itself both issueswise and organizationally stands. Indeed, if that question can’t be answered, it puts Pat’s entire enterprise at risk in my opinion.