by Eileen | 8:40 am, January 9, 2013 | Comments Off
If the Republican Party were a private company, it would be in need of a bailout and Republican politicians would be calling for the state to allow it to fail.
To kick off 2013, I’m sharing five things we can do to correct our sorry performance in recent elections. So far, I’ve averred on wasteful spending, shoddy treatment of people, and a bizarre unwillingness to tend to infrastructure. Today, my fourth point is that what the Republicans and center-right in general are getting wrong is recoiling from technology.
So many current politicos on the right side have a misplaced reverence for the Reagan-era, eight years that have become the GOP’s answer to Camelot. Reagan was the right man for his era, and that era shuttered a generation ago. America’s demographics have changed, the USSR is no more, we are fully in the cyber-age.
Each and every time some starry-eyed chap in a rep stripe tie starts rhapsodizing about the Reagan 80s, I want to punch him. This is why I don’t go to CPAC, anymore. There’s no way I’d avoid an assault charge. This reactive refusal to play by the lay of the land gets the right into all manner of trouble. On a policy level, we see the problems of a movement still fighting social battles that were decided a decade ago and bringing out platforms that are fundamentally disconnected from the demography of the American electorate today. Campaigning in a way that doesn’t resonate with voters happens partly because of decision-makers who don’t want to change and partly because our technology is so third-rate that we don’t have the information to get it right, anyway.
On a tactical level, we are a ship of fools, with technology that could make so many things possible. And we aren’t doing anything with it. Not long ago, this wasn’t the case. Rightwingers were the first to realize the value of talk radio, cable television, blogs, and microdata. But we stopped developing those skills after a few years and have now been overrun by our opponents. So much of the radio and TV shows are echo chambers, dispensing received wisdom to true believers, with all involved becoming hardened from overexposure to the most simplified statement of their own opinions. Fox, Newsmax, and related characters have given us too many people who hold curious opinions, have their facts all wrong, and have regressed to a childish inability to countenance a challenge to their opinions.
We’ve really missed the boat on the evolution of blogs. Many bloggers got weary of all that work for little recognition and no reward. Often the money to play bloggers comes from people and party organs who demand total editorial control. The result is dry content, a regurgitation of the same ideas that have tripping us up for a decade, and so many steps to approve a post that any content is outdated by the time is goes up.
The microdata failing may be saddest of all. Back in the Bush days, we had Voter Vault, and the Dems were panicked. Kicking themselves for not having thought of it and terrified of what we might do with it. They need not have worried. After the 2006 losses, we scrapped a good system that performed admirably in its alpha test. Across the aisle, the left ran with the idea and it has exceeded anyone’s wildest hopes.
All this ties back to my earlier points. Funding good writers and paying to build top notch data would be better uses of our money than a lot of things we’re doing now. Ignoring good blogs because they don’t parrot the party line and expecting any writer getting funded to obey without question are yet more instance of lack of respect for people. And executing a microdata set along the lines of what the Dems have, and what we could have had years ago, would require a solid commitment to granular work over the course of years.
In some respects, we are at a disadvantage. For one thing, I would say we have more activists who are a generation or three removed from modern technology. And I would absolutely hold that we are falling down on the task of explaining social media, the web, and such stuff to smart people who have a lifetime of experience and expertise, a strong desire to be involved, and, belonging to the last generation of Americans who will likely ever enjoy retirement, lots of spare time.
What we do, in terms of large-scaled, well-funded training operations is embarrassing. Here, I refer to DC-based get-ups where the staff understand the material they teach poorly and where the courses on offer are rudimentary, at best. Staffers skip about the country teaching these sad, remedial presentations over and over, but what happens when someone wants to learn more?
Maybe this owes to presenters who don’t actually have the knowledge to teach anything beyond the basics. Maybe it has something to do with people who’d rather not see anyone capable enough to, say, take their job. And maybe it’s laziness. I’ve seen plenty of presentations where the speaker, barely old enough to drink, recites things anyone who’s been in school in the last quarter century would know about computers. What I don’t see are presentations on technology for activists that actually show the presenter educated herself and put real time into the material. Tell me something I can’t teach myself in three minutes on Wikipedia. Don’t waste my time with a recitation of the obvious.
(In a nutshell, that’s why PPC started our courses. Which are returning for 2013. Stay tuned.)
At another level, we don’t really grasp how to make technology work. We like the idea. We like to say we’re into it. We’re good at fantasizing about a world where technology carries us to a permanent majority. But we don’t work at it. We are the Underwear Gnomes of Southpark. We want to get technology and win it all, while everything in the middle is an afterthought.
To look at ORCA again, what on earth possessed people running a Presidential campaign to think there was no need to test that system prior to the Election? What crossed the mind of the person at the RNC who made the decision to scrap Voter Vault? Clearly, our brass doesn’t understand technology, won’t learn, and aren’t willing to let actual experts come in.
We know that such things as computer programmers and developers and statisticians exist. As with every other expert, we want them to work for free. We want our very own Nate Silver…provided he’ll do it gratis. Yeah, this is yet another instance of blow-hards who want it all for free. But it also signifies an elite who can’t even consider mastery of modern technology, and real creativity in applying those capabilities, to be valuable skills.
What we do in the place is cold-call people, bang on their doors, and stuff their mailboxes with fluff. None of which works. Defenders of these antiquated systems have told me that “voter contact works.” And I agree. Utterly and totally. Talking to voters works. Interrupting dinner with a recorded message is not real contact. Nor is a four-color flyer informing me that, after two unremarkable terms in the House, I should vote to send some rat to the Senate because he has a dog and will “fight for the people”, whatever the hell that means. Push polls are also not ‘real contact’. In fact, they’re negative contact – so unproductive you lose points. Polling is an actual skill. Take all the money you will save when you stop buying lists of phone numbers and hire someone who understands running field surveys. Which is not a skill you will acquire in a three-hour workshop.
Bottom line here, the things we think are cheap, easy, and effective don’t tick any of those boxes. The technology we’re passing up offers breathtaking possibilities. We hurting ourselves twice; first by not taking advantage of technology and then again by fumbling voter contact. This should be the easy part. Technology is fun. For all the received wisdom about the leftist sensibilities of the youth, I may report firsthand that plenty of those youngsters are tech-savvy and quite enthused about liberty. We are leaving so damn much on the table.
Instead, we’re still in a tiff that we can’t get away with the umpteenth reheating of what was cutting edge in 1984. Our time-tested Enlightenment philosophy is as correct as it ever was. Our technology is not.
Praise for PPC From Our Lefty "Fan"
- "Zany-ass bombast-entertainment...Hackneyed weirdo communist pseudo-nostalgia" --Alan Franklin, ProgressNow
- PPC Training for Activists
UPDATE: Something apparently got messed up with the PayPal buttons during this past weekend’s database glitch – fixed now. Yes, it’s that time again — PPC will be conducting training classes for center-right activists on Saturday, April 20 and Saturday, April 27, at Independence Institute in Denver. The tentative class schedule is as follows: Saturday, [...]
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