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I’ve Lost What Little Respect For David All I Had Left

Back at the beginning of the year, David All joined the chorus of voices pointing out that the GOP was not exactly embracing the Internet as a political tool. Prior to his career as a professional agitator, David worked for a couple of campaigns and received notoriety for his role as Jack Kingston’s blogger. He is, by all accounts, a master of self-promotion.

I have run into David in several circles, but never really have sat down to discuss politics or technology at length with him. I don’t know what kind of guy he is. I had always, however, read what he had to say – agreeing with him occasionally, and disagreeing completely almost as often.

In the last few weeks, however, he has gone from someone I can agree with to someone for whom I have absolutely no respect. His post on RedState banning Ron Paul’s angry, vocal minority was ridiculous.

I agree with Captain Ed. Generally, Republicans need to welcome Ron Paul (and all others willing to wear a Republican banner) to the debate and the discussion. If Ron Paul doesn’t win the nomination, we need him to actively endorse and support the winner so that his supporters will use their energy to defeat Hillary.

Personally, I recognize that Paul’s support is very, very real, especially in the politics + tech sphere. He is the people-powered Howard Dean candidate of 2008 which I’ve been saying we need to “prove” the importance of an effective Internet strategy. He is that Revolution.

First, Paul is not a people powered movement. People powered movements have people. Dean in 2008 had people. He was surging in the polls and imploded. Paul has never garnered more than a single digit in any polling not conducted on a website. His “popularity” is a creation of, by, and for the Internet. I play video games online, that doesn’t mean dragons and aliens exist in the real world. Ron Paul may be able to organize his minions to stuff the ballot box on MSNBC, but can he deliver a single person to the polls?

Second, and much more important, a revolution of anti-Semitic, racist, white supremacist, black helicopter Republicans is absolutely not what we need to “prove” anything. Sending a crystal clear message to these people that we a) will not tolerate them and b) absolutely do not want them in the party is what we “need” to do. Erick Erickson is right.

If David All wants to bring in these people to beat Hillary, he can have at it. Thanks, but I’ll pass. The media already paints the GOP as angry white guys enough without David bringing these guys in to help.

I’m guessing David was about 8 or 10 during the 1992 convention, but the angry right was embodied by Pat Buchanan’s speech to the delegates in Houston. It was that speech, as much as anything else, that cemented our brand as reactionaries and zealots. It has taken us 15 years to recover from putting the radical ideologies of an extremist on display.

Arguing that we need people in our coalition who preach the “Zionist conspiracy” as a political philosophy (which is what Erick was railing against, and the reason for the ban) misses the point completely. If David actually believes that the lunatic wing of the right will fall into line to support the eventual nomination of Romney, Giuliani, Thompson or McCain, he needs an adjustment to his political instincts. As Erickson pointed out, Paul himself said during the CNBC debate that he would not support the GOP nominee.

Not right now I don‚Äôt. Not unless they‚Äôre willing to end the war and bring our troops home… No, I‚Äôm not going to support them if they continue down the path which has taken our party down the tubes.

I find it odd that Paul calls it “our party” having run on the Libertarian ticket for President the last time he ran. It seems he only wants to affiliate with the GOP when he thinks there is electoral advantage. His minions probably don’t share that tendency and would likely vote for the Libertarians’ quadrennial sacrifice.

What would cause David to believe that Paul’s supporters would ever get behind the GOP? That argument is almost as laughable as the one he used to defend Google and MoveOn.

Arguing that Google was simply protecting MoveOn’s trademark was laughable. That may be the justification that Google used, but it forgets one thing – our constitution and judicial system have always protected political speech above all else. Political e-mail is exempt from CAN-SPAM for exactly that reason. Commercial speech and political speech are treated completely different under the law.

David’s argument that Google was right to act as it did undermines that. He could have, just as easily, called on Google to recognize the value of political speech as the government does. He could have called on them to recognize that nobody has the right to hide behind a trademark to throw grenades at a candidate. Instead, he knelt at the alter of Google and jumped in bed with Joan Blades.

Erick Erickson theorizes that David’s problem is two-fold. First, David is more committed to the technology than the cause, and second, he is simply trying to grab onto the story to get attention.

Erick presents these in the opposite order, but I’ll tackle them this way, and one at a time. The more troubling of Erick’s charges is that David may be more devoted to technology than to the GOP. That, I would argue, is a harder charge to make stick. David has, to his credit, served a fair number of GOPers and spent some time in the trenches. Do I think he’s still a little wet behind the ears, and needs a bit more experience? Yes. Do I think he’s likely to look back on some of these positions some day and think, “What the hell was I thinking”? Absolutely. But do I believe that he has put a love of Google and a desire to see some marginal Republican achieve success online (even at the expense of the greater party)? I really don’t.

I’d like to suggest that Erick’s first instinct may have been the correct one. As I have said, David is, by all accounts, a master of self-promotion. It’s entirely possible that he made a conscious choice to take the contrarian position solely to further his agenda of making David everything that David can be. If that’s the case, he certainly wouldn’t be the first. Ann Coulter has made an entire career of being annoying just to get press.

That said, I have no respect for that. I dislike Ann Coulter and now refuse to give her a dime or a minute of my attention. She has advocated some ridiculous positions, and made the GOP look terrible for no reason beyond her own advancement. I think David has done the same. He has advocated against basic political speech rights of a candidate under attack, and argued (allegedly in pursuit of an “Internet victory”) for the rights of racists and anti-Semites to use anyone else’s platform as they please.

Does he do it out of some misguided technologist passion? I just don’t buy it. I think David is calculating, and has come to the conclusion that taking these positions gets him noticed. I think that’s why he took his post against RedState and circulated it to the media (as Erick alleges).

Back in May, David and I were quoted in the same WaPo story railing against the GOP and its inability to develop an “A” game online. It appeared front page, above the fold. It made me, with more than 20 years serving my party, a bit uncomfortable. You’ll notice I have since shown more restraint in my criticism. While I still believe we need to do more online, I am spending more effort helping candidates do it right than I am telling people what we’re doing wrong.

I believe that David took from the experience a completely different lesson. I think he discovered that when it comes to the press, the squeaky wheel gets the attention. I have noticed a significant increase in his tendency to not only get his name in print everywhere he can, but to promote any mention of himself via e-mail and blog.

I think Erick missed the target, but hit the tree. I think David is more committed to David than to the cause.

Update: Right after I posted this, I received an e-mail from a friend suggesting I take a look at David’s Facebook profile pic (below).

David All preening

Pictures are normally worth a thousand words. In this case, 1,416. That image says everything I did, but it’s much more eloquent.

Written by Michael Turk