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Posted by on Feb 20, 2009 in At TMV | 15 comments

Why Republicans Don’t Get the Internet

Meghan McCain, daughter of John and blog chronicler of his campaign at McCain Blogette.com, had a post on the Daily Beast yesterday promising to explain it to us. Of the site featuring the video above, RebuildTheParty.com, she says:

The website is about as provocative as a blue suit, white shirt, and red tie. At the time that I write this, the video on the homepage features various individuals, most of them I would guess between the ages of fifty and sixty, explaining why they consider themselves Republicans. Had I still been an independent, there is nothing about this website or video that would sway me as a twenty-four year old woman to join the GOP…Until the Republican party joins the twenty-first century and learns how to use the Internet, its members will keep getting older and the youth of America will just keep logging on to the other side.”

She says maybe the problem isn’t that one party is more adept at using the Internet; it’s how each uses the online tools that are out there. She quotes Steve Grove, YouTube’s head of news and politics:

“I don’t buy the argument that Democrats are more naturally ‘grass rootsy’ and therefore use the Internet better… Online tools are political tools like any other, and I think you’re already seeing the GOP step it up through efforts like ‘Rebuild the Party’ and the RNC’s weekly YouTube responses to President Obama, which demonstrate their passion to get back in the game.”

Grove has a professional interest in seeing things that way. Republicans do have passion, but the Internet’s not their native form.

I think online is to liberals as Talk Radio is to conservatives. And I thought so even before I heard Markos Moulitsas Zúniga — you known, that liberal, Kos — in an epicenter interview with Dave Weinberger back in May of 2007:

The conservatives can heat up–this is what they do: they say on message, they hammer that message, and it can be very, very effective and help them win for decades, that singularity of message. Everyone knows what the Republican Party stands for because we’ve heard it eight billion times: small government, lower taxes, national defense, and strong family values. Everybody can recite those. Ask somebody why they’re a democrat, and you’ll get 18 million different answers about why they’re a democrat. There’s no singularity in message. And again, in a traditional media world, that was a problem because everybody’s saying a different thing. There’s no common messaging, so the viewer is left wondering: “What are these people are about? I have no idea.”

Now we have a medium, the blogosphere, that allows us to embrace that diversity in voices, and that desire to debate, argue, and think for ourselves, and actually turn that, what used to be a negative and a weakness, turns it into a strength.

The beauty was that we were so fragmented in the past that we would end up in our own silos. You had the environmentalists in one corner, and the women’s groups in another, and labor in yet another group. You had all these constituencies in the Democratic Party, and in a broader progressive movement, always sitting at a different table.

Now, what a place like Daily Kos allows us to do is that everybody will come to Daily Kos–the center of the party, the left of the party, the right of the party–and we’ll argue, argue, argue. We’ll hate on each other fierce. People talk about the echo chamber at Daily Kos, and it’s a joke because actually it’s quite a brutal place.

But, then what happens is we’re all at the same table, and we’re all arguing, but we’re at the same table. When an election rolls around, and it’s time to get together to work on behalf of our candidates, people will put aside those differences for those six months before the election, and will work their butts off. Then sure, once the election is over, they’ll go back to arguing, and a lot of that will be arguing and hating on the democrats that we just helped get elected. But, by putting everybody at the same table, we’re able to harness that collective energy and work for a commonality of purpose when that is needed–when the time for that is around, which is usually around elections. But sometimes, it could be around activism campaigns.

That still rings true to me.

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