The Washington Post today carries an article covering the state of online politics and the relative advantages/disadvantages of the two parties. I’m quoted in the article on a couple of topics. I think there are a couple of things Vargas gets wrong, but he gets the general theme right – the GOP is playing catch up online.
I’m sure I will continue to catch hell from former colleagues at the RNC. I’m not exactly the most popular guy over there given my comments about this issue. This article is unlikely to change that. I would like, however, to provide a little context for my comments.
Yes, I’m critical of our efforts. Yes, I am probably too critical. There are a lot of people who believe these conversations are a private issue – keep them in the family, and don’t air your dirty laundry in public. I respect that opinion, but I fundamentally disagree. I think that perspective is an example of the problem we have online.
Now, should anyone take my thoughts as the gospel? Absolutely not. I’m just some guy who has some thoughts about the party, and what I think it should do differently. And that’s the point.
The Internet fosters debate and discussion. It allows an open, and deliberative decision making process. By having this discussion publicly, we bring people to the process who have been shut out. Many of those people have very good ideas – not just about the Internet and ways to reach and move people, but about policies, and ideas, and ways to make the country better. The best ideas will float up. Are mine the best? Not hardly.
Despite my willingness to speak publicly, I am actually terribly self-conscious and am probably harder on myself than I would ever be on the party. I am only willing to speak because it is a discussion that I believe needs to take place, and I hope to encourage others to jump in.
As for my feelings on the RNC, Vargas quotes me accurately. However, my feelings about the RNC bureaucracy could probably apply to just about any large, storied institution. Entities like that become complacent by nature. They lose sight of their mission because they put too much emphasis on protecting their reputation. I don’t begrudge the RNC for that, at all.
The Internet, however, is less about tradition and more about innovation. Online, if your reflection on past success prevents you from evolving, you die. If you can’t adapt to the other guys better idea, he wins. In a business that is about nothing but winning, that becomes problematic. The slow-mover gets run over. For us, the question is whether we’ll see the car coming before its tires crush our rib cage.
With regard to Rudy’s site, it’s unfortunate that Vargas chose to single out my critique of Rudy’s. I don’t think Rudy’s site is necessarily better or worse than McCain’s or Romney’s (or Hillary’s for that matter). He could just as easily have quoted many comments I’ve made to the effect that most of the current crop of Presidential candidates (on both sides, and, I believe, excepting Obama) have failed to move the ball.
That said, I think we’re going to see some really interesting things in online politics this cycle, but I’m also hopeful that a lot of what will be remembered after 2008 will have been done by Republicans.