Last week, with a bunch of other poli-tech types, I signed on to a letter calling on the RNC and DNC to release the footage from the Presidential debates under a creative commons license. The idea behind the effort was that the process of electing a president (or any other office for that matter) should be as open as possible, and belongs to the people, not the networks. By allowing people to share the footage and use it to create their own voter-generated messages, you allow greater participation in electoral politics. As with many things that are untried, and flow against the prevailing model, this one was viewed skeptically. The RNC, for its part, was immediately dismissive.
That prompted a call from Ben Smith at the Politico.
We had a conversation about the state of online politics and my belief that the RNC is really off their game. During that conversation I stated my belief that Ken Mehlman really got this stuff, but had surrounded himself with people who did not. While I was unhappy with what we were able to accomplish while half of his staff was working against his vision, I was very pleased to see an RNC Chairman who understood the transformational nature of online politics. Unfortunately, Ken left the RNC and its current leadership has given me no indication that they appreciate the possibilities before them online.
I related these feelings to Ben Smith, and as I suspected he would, he wrote about them.
Robert Bluey described it as “tough talk” but it really isn’t anything I haven’t been saying for over a year. Both Bluey and David All pointed out the fact that the letter was signed by a lot of left-leaners, which they argue may have compromised the spirit of non-partisanship with which it was intended.
That’s unfortunate, but does not, in my view, change the content of the letter. If the RNC is so reactionary that they dismissed the letter without even reading it, simply because of that, they really need to rethink their process.
Not all ideas that carry a bipartisan label are good, but not all ideas that have the blessing of some on the left are bad. It really is ridiculous that we have become so rigidly partisan that we are unwilling to read the letter and judge it on it’s merits. I think that is especially true when among the first signatures they see are Michelle Malkin, Mike Krempasky, Glenn Reynolds, me, Dr. William Greene from RightMarch.com, the (admittedly more libertarian) Electronic Freedom Foundation, and Republican and former FEC Chairman Brad Smith.
Should Lessig have reached out to Bluey, John Hawkins, Mary Katharine, NZ Bear, Hugh Hewitt, or others? Probably. To large extent, I blame myself for that. When Larry called I was hip-deep in a number of projects that all had deadlines last week and I was unable to cast a net for him. They wanted to get the letter done before the debates last week and this week, and had an urgency I could not match.
That also does not change the content of the letter.
While I hope David is right, and this is simply a gut reaction that the RNC botched, I suspect that isn’t the case.